A FOUNDING father of the free newspaper revolution in the UK has died, aged 70.
Geoff Hickman, universally acclaimed as a true gentleman, was a footballer, cricketer, entrepreneur and doting father and husband.
In the 1970s, together with business partner Chris Bullivant, Geoff helped create Bullman Newspapers which not only launched the Redditch Advertiser but also the Bromsgrove Advertiser, the Solihull Times and the Stourbridge, Halesowen and Dudley News.
Chris later went on to launch the Redditch and Bromsgrove Standard and Observer series.
A keen sportsman, Geoff always put his heart and soul into everything he did.
As a youngster he was offered an apprenticeship with West Bromwich Albion but his devoted parents Irene and Walter insisted he finished his education first.
He later joined West Brom as a trainee goalkeeper and finished his career at Bradford City FC.
He met Chris Bullivant while working as a sales executive at a Birmingham newspaper.
Together with Chris and his wife Pat, and Jan who became his first wife, they founded Bullman Newspapers.
He married Jan and their son Tony was born eight years later, Geoff using what free time he had to play for Feckenham Cricket Club.
In 1984, he married his second wife Liz and they had two children Abbie and Mark.
After selling his share in the newspaper group, he moved into property development.
He then founded Laserset, a newspaper typesetting and production company with long time colleague Steve Reynolds and turned his attention to helping build the social side of Barnt Green Cricket Club.
This led him to launch his own catering company, which quickly became a popular supplier to functions and private parties.
In 2011 he was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis which he initially brushed aside, but in 2017 he started to show secondary symptoms.
Covid 19 curtailed his catering work and the timing was a blessing as his health failed further leading to his passing at home on the 12th minute of the 12th hour on the 12th day of the 12th month, surrounded by his family.
Alongside his working life, Geoff adored his wife, Liz, and was committed to supporting his children, Tony, Mark and Abbie.
The importance of family to Geoff was perhaps clearest in the relationship he maintained with ex-wife Jan, her husband Paul and their daughter, Emma, who lovingly referred to him as ‘Dad’.
Among all the kind condolences the family have received, one phrase stands out – ‘Geoff was a true gentleman’.
His long time business partner Chris Bullivant. said: “During the years we worked together, Geoff and Jan were exemplary partners.
“They played their full part in developing what was to become one of the largest independent free newspaper groups in the country.
“It is only now 30 years later that I fully appreciate the value of such a stalwart partnership.
“I will miss you, Geoff.”
Geoff’s funeral is at Redditch crematorium at 2pm on January 7, on what would have been his birthday.
The family ask that any donations be made to the British Lung Foundation via Huntleys Funeral Services, 58 Ipsley Street, Redditch, B98 7AE.