City’s celebrated son returns for honour

Sir Peter Vardy with Vice-Chancellor Sir David Bell

Published on 06 January 2020

Sir Peter is an Honorary Doctor of Business Administration at the University of Sunderland, and a former Governor of the University’s predecessor institution, Sunderland Polytechnic.  He was back in the city to unveil a plaque celebrating his relationship with the University, which stretches back more than 30 years.

The plaque was unveiled at the University’s Faculty of Business, Law and Tourism building at its riverside campus. The building was renamed in honour of Sir Peter’s late father, Reg Vardy, in 2001.  Earlier this year the site went through a major capital investment, improving learning and social areas for students studying business, law and tourism in the Reg Vardy Centre.

Sir Peter said: “I’ve been involved with the University of Sunderland for quite some time.  My passion is education, and I’ve spent a lot of my time trying to improve the lot of students, and I hope this relationship will continue for years to come.”

Sir David Bell KCB, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sunderland, says: “We were delighted to recognise Sir Peter’s role as one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the north east of England, for his wider public service, and his outstanding contribution to the University.”

Sir Peter Vardy

Reg Vardy, Sir Peter’s father, began their family business in the 1920s, which was then a coal haulage firm, with one horse and cart.  As automation was introduced, the company and number of vehicles increased.  In the 1950's the company expanded from haulage and repairs into franchise dealerships, based at Stoneygate, Houghton-le-Spring.  After Reg died in 1976, Peter took over the business with his brothers David (who is the director of the Vardy Foundation's Schools projects) and John, and when they left to pursue other interests Peter took over the motor retail operation.

He expanded the business from one dealership in the north east of England with six staff, to a group of over one hundred dealerships, with over 6,000 staff.

Peter grew the business nationally representing luxury and performance cars, such as Rolls Royce, Bentley, Aston Martin, Ferrari, Mercedes Benz, BMW, Land Rover, Jaguar and Audi.

The company moved into a new Head Office at Doxford Park in July 2001.