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Former Cardiff Rugby chairman Peter Thomas dies age 79

Peter Thomas, ex-chairman of Cardiff and profound businessman, has passed away at the age of 79.

Peter Thomas was a former Cardiff RFC player in the 1960s who later returned to help manage the club during its transition to one of Wales’ regions in 2003.

Thomas first invested in the club in 1994 and served as its chairman for 22 years before resigning in 2018.

Despite stepping down, he remained devoted and active in club matters until his passing, leaving an enduring impact on Cardiff. The region announced Thomas’ peaceful passing at his home on Wednesday, surrounded by his loved ones.

Thomas had been battling lung cancer since 2021. Throughout more than six decades of association with Cardiff, Thomas played a pivotal role as one of the most influential figures in Welsh rugby.

He signed numerous big-name players, including Jonathan Davies, Iestyn Harris, and Jonah Lomu, among others. Cardiff paid tribute to Thomas, describing him as their “life president” who remained “fiercely loyal” to the club until the very end.

Cardiff said Thomas “remained fiercely loyal and active in club matters until the very end and leaves a lasting legacy at Cardiff Arms Park”.

The region’s statement said: “Cardiff Rugby are saddened to announce the passing of life president, Peter Thomas CBE.

“Thomas is survived by his wife Babs, four children Holly, Deborah, Steph and Rhod, and nine grandchildren.

“A full obituary and tributes will be issued in due course and Cardiff Rugby ask that both the public and media respect the privacy of the Thomas family at this difficult time.”

During Peter Thomas’ involvement with Cardiff off the field, the club reached the inaugural Heineken Champions Cup final in 1996 but lost 21-18 to Toulouse. They also won the Challenge Cup twice, defeating Toulon 28-21 in 2010 and narrowly edging out Gloucester 31-30 eight years later. In 2009, Cardiff won the now-defunct Anglo-Welsh Cup, convincingly defeating Gloucester 50-12 at Twickenham.

Although Thomas resigned as Cardiff chairman in November 2018 and wrote off debts exceeding £11m, he remained a board member and generous supporter. Throughout Thomas’ influential era in Welsh rugby, disputes and financial troubles plagued the sport at the highest level.

Cardiff and Swansea played against England’s top-tier teams in the 1998-99 season, which was labeled as Welsh rugby’s “rebel season.”

The transition of Welsh rugby from clubs to regions at the elite level occurred in 2003, and Cardiff Blues were established as a region, later becoming Cardiff Rugby in the 2021-22 season.

Thomas’ father, Stan Thomas, established Thomas Pies in the 1950s, selling pies, pasties, and sausage rolls in the south Wales valleys. Peter’s brother, Sir Stanley Thomas, is also a businessman with strong rugby connections, having supported their hometown club Merthyr in the Welsh Premiership in recent years.

By 1976, the family business had relocated to Bedwas, Caerphilly, and became known as Peter’s Pies. After their father’s retirement in 1986, Peter Thomas and his brother Stanley took over the company, earning their first fortune by selling the business for £75m in 1988.

Numerous Cardiff players have paid tribute to Peter Thomas on social media.

“Incredibly sad day, proud to have known him grateful to have spent time with him, indebted for everything he has done for Cardiff Rugby,” wrote captain Josh Turnbull.

Back row Thomas Young, the son of head coach Dai Young, wrote: “As a family we owe you a lot and will forever be grateful. Thank you, RIP Peter Thomas.”