THE founder of a major Oxfordshire printing equipment firm has died aged 58.

John Price was the managing director of Ashgate Automation and a well-known figure in his industry.

He founded his company in 1989 after leaving the Royal Navy in the late 1970s and setting up another, Watford-based Systematic, which was bought by Duplo.

His son Lewis has now succeeded him as managing director, after joining the company in 1999.

Mr Price was born in Ashgate, Derbyshire, on April 15, 1956 to parents Gordon and Ivy. As a boy he went to school in what is now Stockley Academy, Middlesex, before leaving aged 14 and going to naval training school in Anglesey.

He trained on helicopters, working on ships and dry land, until he was aged 19. He met Dawn Dunbarton in 1976 in a forces social club, and the couple married the same year in Harefield, Middlesex.

He then worked in a number of jobs before settling into selling printing equipment, in companies including Duplo and CP Bourg. His first job was with the latter. His son Lewis said: “He had been doing all sorts of jobs each week until he came across the firm aged 23, in 1979, and applied for the job. Dad had the gift of the gab and convinced them to take him on – the rest, as they say, is history.”

During that time Mr and Mrs Price had their children, Adam, in 1979, and Lewis in 1981.

But Mr Price’s foray into the printing industry with CP Bourg was the beginning of a long career.

In the 1980s he helped to start Systematic, based in Watford, which was later bought out by Duplo. Mr Price then started Ashgate Automation in 1989, from Chalgrove. The name was taken from his place of birth, in Ashgate, Derbyshire.

He had family in the area and would often spend time their when he was a young man.

Ashgate Automation, a business which sold printing and binding machines, went on to supply several large clients in the county, including Oxford University and Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust.

Its major partner is Finnish firm Fastbind, a manufacturer of print finishing equipment capable of making products such as hardback books.

The company also works with Duplo, Ideal and Maxit, Konica Minolta and Taopix, Mr Price’s son Lewis said.

Mr Price died on August 8, due to complications after a heart attack.

He is survived by his wife, two sons Adam and Lewis and five grand-children.

A funeral was held on Tuesday, August 19 at Oxford Crematorium.

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