Tibor Killi: Tributes paid to 'remarkable' Sheffield businessman who ran famous Glossop Road cleaning firm

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A famous Sheffield businessman who launched a successful cleaning company after dramatically fleeing Hungary, having played a role in the revolution, has sadly died.

Tibor Killi launched the hugely successful family firm Killis, which is probably best known for its iconic Glossop Road shop T.L. Killi's but has its headquarters in Handsworth and distributes across the UK and Europe, after arriving in Sheffield in 1964. He had escaped from Budapest as a teenager eight years earlier in 1956 after being involved in the uprising against Soviet rule, which was brutally crushed.

Tibor started his career as a door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman before achieving huge success with his business, which today supplies thousands of hotels, schools, hospitals and restaurants with cleaning products. As well as taking on the Soviet might when he was just a schoolboy, his fascinating life story even includes a spell as interpreter for the Hungarian national football team. When the coronavirus pandemic started, he generously donated protective equipment to help medical staff on the frontline.

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Killis described this week how Tibor, who was born in 1942, had passed away peacefully at his home last Thursday, June 29, following a ‘short but difficult illness’. It said the business would be closed for the day of the funeral, details of which are yet to be confirmed, but would remain open as normal in the meantime to ‘continue the legacy of our founder and leader’. A book of condolence has been placed in the company’s head office and at the Glossop Road shop.

Tibor Killi outside his shop T.L Killi's on Glossop Road, in Sheffield city centre.Tibor Killi outside his shop T.L Killi's on Glossop Road, in Sheffield city centre.
Tibor Killi outside his shop T.L Killi's on Glossop Road, in Sheffield city centre.

Peter Sephton, of the Sheffield city centre residents group ChangingSheff, who got to know Tibor first as a customer and then through their shared opposition to the controversial Glossop Road bus gate, called him a ‘truly remarkable man’.

“Right to the end he was full of passion for the business, for his customers and for things he felt were making life more difficult to trade successfully,” said Peter. “Because of this energy his business has been an amazing success and brought substantial income to Sheffield through the shop and the factory.

“From nothing he created a manufacturing and importing business dealing in specialist equipment and janitorial supplies for the cleaning industry. His unique range of cleaning products, vacuum cleaners, floor scrubbers, pressure washers and rotary floor polishers supplied the nation and the world.

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“He was fascinating to discuss issues with - highly intelligent and always passionate. The kind of person that really fits the description of ‘unique’ and I will sorely miss the interesting discussions we have enjoyed. An irreplaceable gentleman. RIP Tibor.”

Tributes have also flooded in on social media. One person called him a ‘wonderful soul’, another said he was ‘always a gentleman’ who found the time to talk despite the pressure of running a thriving business, and a third well-wisher described him as a ‘fascinating character’ who was ‘brave and helped me out a lot professionally’. A fourth person wrote: “Mr Killi would treat everyone with the upmost respect. We would talk about many subjects. I found him to be kind, compassionate and genuinely interested in people. A great man who will be sorely missed. RIP Legendary Mr Killi.”

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