Simon Boon: humility, humanity and integrity
On the playing field, in the meeting room and around Ashwells Road, former Old Brentwoods Society President Simon Boon (1964-1974) proved himself a non-stop Old Brentwood for 46 years. He had recently retired as a partner with DLA Piper and become a grandfather. Accordingly, the Brentwood spectrum was shocked to hear of his death from a heart attack on July 18th, aged only 64. The funeral took place at St. Peter’s Church, South Weald on August 17th.
Simon’s Brentwood cv was packed with family. His widow Sue is the daughter and sister respectively of former Society Presidents Neil and Phil Loader. Simon and Sue’s children---Christopher, James and Katie---all attended Brentwood School. Sue’s grandfather Kipper Dunlop and Simon’s father Keith were also Society presidents.
Born in 1956, Simon always lived in Brentwood, first in Weald Road and then at Lincolns Cottage. Given that father Keith and Uncle John had attended Brentwood School, Simon was always going to share that destination.
In the Prep, he made his mark early in football and cricket, playing for and captaining year group teams in both sports. His finest hour was taking eight wickets for eleven runs against Alleyn Court. Cricket was curtailed when he injured his foot, after recklessly jumping out of a first floor window at home. He won the Hough Prize for Virtue Learning and Manners.
In the main school, he played for and was captain of his year group football and cricket teams up to U16 level. His most memorable achievement was taking nine wickets against St. Martin’s for the U13s. He played for the Ist XIs at both sports, his football debut occurring, aged 15, on a tour to Haguenau, France. He scored a number of goals as a striker until “the wise Bob Jackson” switched him to sweeper.
Simon played for the Public Schools Southern side and trained with Fulham FC Youth for a year but felt he had “no chance of making the grade” professionally. In his final year, 1973-74, he was head of South and a praepostor.
He started playing for the OBs at Burland Road immediately after school. He turned out for the cricket 1st X1 for a few years but soccer was the primary focus. He played regularly at the Essex Waterworks ground in Harold Wood, OBAFC’s temporary home in the late 1970s and put in many subsequent years on the Ashwells Road pitches.
He was a member of the OB Arthurian League winning sides of 1974/75, 1975/76, 1979/80 and 1980/81. He captained the team for a couple of seasons in the 1980s and played for the Arthurian League for three years. On the Arthur Dunn Cup front, Simon’s hopes of appearing in the 1976 final were dashed by a broken hand. He played in the 1977, 1979, 1986, 1988 and 1989 finals, suffering a broken leg in the last. The only success was in 1986.
He enjoyed the Easter tours to Hastings as both player and organiser and took the field in the North Eye prison game. Old Brentwoods folklore has it that tough tackling by the OBs proved too much for the residents. He hung up his boots at 43.
Simon’s organising skills were called on regularly for golfing weekends over 30 years, occasionally for Belgian and French courses. His strenuous efforts to win the OB Golfing Society’s Hough Cup were eventually rewarded.
Simon proved himself a glutton for administrative punishment in the service of the Old Brentwoods Society. He organised functions to boost funds, including the consistently memorable New Year’s Eve “bash.” As a Management Committee member, he became steadily more involved in repairs and renovations at Ashwells Road, serving as Chairman of the General Committee from the mid-1990s until 2011.
The challenges were many for Simon and colleagues: installing a ladies’ changing room; refurbishing the main changing room and shower area; removing the big bath, outlawed by Health & Safety correctness; refitting the kitchen; recarpeting the entire Clubhouse bar and restaurant area; resurfacing the tennis courts; and rectifying the deterioration of the Clubhouse roof. The biggest and most successful undertaking involved drainage to relieve flooding in the car park and training areas. A borehole was drilled by the car park and drains installed under the Clubhouse and extended to the lower fields to take away the water.
Simon helped reorganise the split in responsibilities between managing the Clubhouse and looking after the grounds. This involved agreeing employment terms and contracts for groundsman and bar and restaurant manager.
The biggest “hit” to OB finances occurred when the School Governors decided to discontinue paying the first five years of Society subscriptions for all leavers and launch the School’s own alumni operation.
This prompted a rigorous examination of all Society’s activities. Clubhouse and grounds would have to be run in a thoroughly commercial manner. Accordingly, Simon, Past Presidents Guy Black, Colin Finch and Richard Owers, Secretary Ian West and Treasurer Adrian Rilstone produced new arrangements----rules, systems, cost centres and management structure----to keep the whole operation afloat and lay the ground for improvement and development. The Society has remained the parent body of the new Old Brentwoods Club which has grown to over 350 members---OBs and Brentwood area residents---and has stepped up and diversified its activities.
Elected President of the Old Brentwoods Society for 2013/14, Simon focused on improving communications with the School and its alumni relations operation, improving communications and encouraging School use of OB facilities. In recent years, he continued to deploy his legal skills in support of the Society, clubhouse and grounds.
Simon obtained a BA Hons in law at the Anglia Ruskin University, Chelmsford and qualified as a solicitor with a firm based in Lincolns Inn. In 1983, only two years after qualifying, he joined the Wildes partnership and began to develop his work in asset lending. In 2001, he joined DLA Piper, now the largest law firm in the world. As a partner, he developed his skills in asset-based lending, becoming an internationally acknowledged expert in the field. He advised across a wide range of industries upon structures, ways of doing business, factoring, funding through debt purchase, and trade and supply chain finance.
As Global Client Relationship Partner for GE (General Electric), he worked closely with lawyers in the USA and Paris. His expertise and experience helped to change the interpretation of the law governing asset-based financing.
Simon’s concern for the less fortunate encompassed both professional and charitable initiatives. From 2010, he led teams of DLA Piper and General Electric lawyers on a two-week course for trainee lawyers and students in liaison with the Law School of Tanzania. In 2016, he led another DLA Piper-General Electric team on a similar course in Lusaka at the Zambia Institute of Advanced Legal Education.
He followed his retirement from DLA Piper in 2019 by joining an arduous trek to Machu Picchu in the Peruvian Andes, raising a substantial sum for UNICEF’s child protection projects.
In his address in St. Peter’s Church, former Society President Richard Owers selected quotes from the many received from people who had worked with Simon. “Always calm, considered, clear, accurate, hardworking, friendly and a fine lawyer.” “He gave so much to our industry, helping to define its legal landscape---a guardian of its moral compass.” “I greatly admired Simon for his humility, humanity and integrity.”