Sir Eddie Kulukundis obituary

My former boss Sir Eddie Kulukundis, who has died aged 88, readily acknowledged his luck in having had wealthy parents, so that he could indulge his love of “helping people” – in particular through many British theatre projects. He provided the finance for more than 100 plays in the West End from the 1970s onwards, mainly via Knightsbridge Theatrical Productions, which he set up with the actor and director Jack Lynn. Among their many successes were Travesties by Tom Stoppard, Bent by Martin Sherman, and Lord Quex, starring Judi Dench and John Gielgud.

In the 90s he co-founded, with Howard Panter, the Ambassador Theatre Group, which is now one of the world’s leading live theatre companies and runs venues across the world.

Eddie was also a philanthropist in the world of sport, where over the years he provided financial support to many athletes, including Fatima Whitbread, Linford Christie, Sally Gunnell and Mo Farah.

He was born in London to George Kulukundis, a member of a wealthy Greek shipping family, and his wife, Eugénie (nee Diacakis). Evacuated to the US during the second world war, Eddie went to Salisbury school in Connecticut and then to Yale University, where he studied psychology and spent a lot of his time watching pre-Broadway theatre productions. In 1952 he returned to England, where he began to work for the family shipbroking business, Rethymnis & Kulukundis.

His philanthropic activities in sport largely began when he gave money to British athletes competing at the 1972 Munich Olympics, helping them to pay for coaching, air fares, transportation and other costs. He became a governor of the Sports Aid Foundation (now Sports Aid) after it was set up by the British government to support athletes ahead of the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, and later chaired the charity from 1988 to 1993, the year in which he was knighted. In the period before the National Lottery he provided financial help to the majority of Britain’s international athletes.

In parallel Eddie was also continuing his many interests in the theatre, which were enhanced in 1981 when he married the actor Susan Hampshire, who, in recognition of his kind-hearted nature and large build, called him “Bear”.

I worked for Eddie in the 80s, typing contracts for great stage actors and composing letters to “angels” inviting them to invest in various projects. It was Eddie’s generosity and humour that made the work so enjoyable. During Edinburgh Festival time he would take all his administrative staff to stay at the splendid Prestonfield House hotel in the city, and we would go to see at least three shows a day. He gave unstintingly to companies and individuals within the theatre, and sometimes the sheer number of meetings he had to endure during the day meant he would doze off during an evening show.

Eddie suffered from dementia in later life and was nursed by Susan, who happily gave up to her acting career to do so.

She survives him, as does his stepson, Christopher, from Susan’s first marriage.