Millionaire Sheffield businessman and former Steelers saviour drowns in Barbados
Tributes have been paid to an ‘absolutely magic’ self-made millionaire from Sheffield who drowned in Barbados.
Mark Smith, who lived in Whirlow, was reported missing at sea on Sunday and police in Barbados confirmed on Tuesday that his body had been found floating off the coast.
The 61-year-old had an estimated net worth of £6.8 million, having made his fortune in the construction industry.
He was listed as a director of seven companies including the Rotherham-based freight firm Keyair Ltd, where his son Oliver is also among the directors.
Mr Smith was perhaps best known for his involvement with the Sheffield Steelers ice hockey team, having been part of a three-man consortium which briefly ran the club in 2001 before losing an ownership contest.
David Simms, the club’s press officer, said: “Without Mark’s generosity and funding we wouldn’t have been able to finish the 2001 season, which was actually a grand slam season and one of the most important in our history.
"At our most desperate time of need, he came good for us and committed to us by putting money in at his own risk, which he lost.
"He was a very good man and always acted in a very diligent and honourable way where the Steelers were concerned. His contribution will not be forgotten.”
Mr Simms added that Mr Smith, who he once bumped into while out in Barbados several years ago, was a well-liked and ‘very sociable’ man.
"He was the kind of guy who you might not see for two years but when you did after about 30 seconds it would be like you were the closest of friends who’d been in touch every day,” he said.
Mr Smith had reportedly been warned not to venture into the water by fellow beach-goers in St James, due to dangerous conditions on the day he disappeared. A witness said he had been hit by a large wave and had not resurfaced.
He had been staying at a guest house in Sunset Crest, it is understood, where a neighbour told a local paper that he was ‘a really nice guy’ who was well known in the area and spent a lot of time at the house, which was his ‘pride and joy’.
The father-of-two had reportedly been spending more time in the Caribbean after splitting from his wife Debbie, who a friend said had been his ‘childhood sweetheart’.
Bob Westerdale, The Star’s ice hockey correspondent and former assistant editor, said he had got to know Mr Smith well following his involvement with the Steelers.
He told how the entrepreneur had built his business empire from nothing, having started out buying and selling wooden pallets.
He described how Mark and Debbie had become close friends who would often invite him round to their huge house overlooking the cricket green in Bradfield before moving to their ‘magnificent’ home in Whirlow.
"Mark was really good to us, and he and Debbie were absolute magic people to be around,” he said.
"I’ll never forget how they helped me out when I was going through a very difficult time.
"Mark loved his kids and he also loved the trinkets of wealth. He always had the most fabulous cars and went on amazing holidays.
"My heart goes out to his wife and family.”