Godfrey Bradman, tax expert, property developer and philanthropist – obituary

Godfrey Bradman - Bill Cross/ANL/Shutterstock
Godfrey Bradman - Bill Cross/ANL/Shutterstock

Godfrey Bradman, who has died aged 86, was a tax accountant turned property developer, philanthropist and social campaigner.

Bradman’s chief contribution to the landscape of London – through his company Rosehaugh and in partnership with another developer, (Sir) Stuart Lipton – was the Broadgate scheme in EC2, on the site of the former Broad Street station. Hailed as the City’s largest building project since the Great Fire, Broadgate “encapsulated the new, aggressive, ‘American’ mood” of the Big Bang era, according to one City historian, and attracted numerous international banks as tenants.

Its imaginative open spaces and cosmopolitan retail offer were also recognised as a step forward compared to the stolid blocks of previous decades. At the topping-out ceremony in July 1986, Margaret Thatcher hailed Broadgate as “a monument to… the virility and vitality of our times”.

Though Rosehaugh went into receivership in 1992, Bradman had a hand in many other landmark developments in London – from White City to Docklands and Elephant and Castle – and beyond. Meanwhile, he also gave his formidable energies pro bono to an eclectic portfolio of causes.

His first public gesture was an offer to the National Union of Mineworkers in February 1974 of £80,000 (£3 per man) per day for a month to suspend their strike. But in the end, Bradman recalled, “[NUM leader Arthur] Scargill wasn’t interested in a settlement.”

Bradman also pursued campaigns for freedom of information, lead-free air, “parents against tobacco”, the protection of unborn children and shelter for the homeless. He rescued Friends of the Earth from financial trouble, funded early Aids research and underwrote a campaign for victims of Opren, an arthritis drug whose maker had withheld compensation for adverse side-effects.

Bradman in 1974, when he offered money to the NUM to call off their strike - Ronald Fortune/ANL/Shutterstock
Bradman in 1974, when he offered money to the NUM to call off their strike - Ronald Fortune/ANL/Shutterstock

The impulse behind these efforts was evidently not an urge for honours, which never came his way. It was in part religious, in part the intellectual challenge of defeating powerful vested interests. Contrary to his reputation for intense seriousness, he admitted in a rare interview that the latter pursuit was “a lot of fun”.

Descended from East European immigrants in the furniture trade, Godfrey Michael Bradman was born in London on September 9 1936 to William Bradman, a fireman, and his wife Anne, née Goldsweig. During the war the family moved to Suffolk, where Godfrey was educated at Sudbury secondary modern. Leaving at 15, he became an accounting clerk, in due course moving back to London to qualify as a chartered accountant.

He established his own accountancy firm in 1961 and his own banking business, London Mercantile, in 1969. Specialising in corporate tax, Bradman made a first fortune devising complex offshore avoidance schemes (he was listed as a director of 120 companies) which were eventually defeated only when the Labour chancellor Denis Healey brought in legislation to close them down. He also acquired property interests which in 1978 he reversed into Rosehaugh, a listed company formerly in the tea trade.

“I wake up every morning and thank God I’m no longer a chartered accountant,” he once said. “My time as a tax adviser was an enormous waste of my talents.” A vegetarian non-smoking teetotaller, he was also something of a hygiene fanatic with an aversion to shaking hands. Increasingly orthodox in his devotions, he sometimes lectured journalists (whom he regarded with deep suspicion) on the eight levels of Jewish charitable giving.

But he also owned racehorses and indulged in occasional fripperies, including commissioning, for £10,000, a unique Superman comic with his eight-year-old son drawn on the cover.

After a brief first marriage, Godfrey Bradman married secondly in 1975 – in a series of ceremonies of increasing religious rectitude – Susan Bennett. She survives him with their twin daughters and son, and her two children from a previous marriage.

Godfrey Bradman, born September 9 1936, died December 25 2022