Obituary: Lord Noon MBE

Fellow and philanthropist

Gulam Kaderbhoy Noon, popularly known as the ‘Curry King’, who died on 27 October 2015 aged 79, was a Birkbeck Fellow and a generous supporter of Birkbeck’s work in east London.

Born in Mumbai, Lord Noon began working in his family sweets business as a teenager. Arriving in London he founded a number of food companies in Southall, specialising in Indian cuisine. He established Noon Products in 1986, manufacturing ready meals for UK supermarkets. He is credited with popularising chicken tikka masala and thereby helping to change the country’s eating habits. The company grew to employ more than 1400 people and produce more than half a million curries a day. In 2005, Noon Products was taken over by Irish food conglomerate Kerry Group, retaining Lord Noon as Chairman.

Founder of the Asian Business Association in 1995, Lord Noon was awarded an MBE for services to the food industry in the 1996 New Year Honours List and was made a Knight Bachelor in 2002. He was created a life peer as Baron Noon of St John’s Wood in 2011.

In 1995, with a personal donation of £4 million, Lord Noon set up the Noon Foundation, a charitable trust to support a wide range of UK and international projects in education and health. Beneficiaries included a mentoring project at Tower Hamlets College, the Southall Young Adults Centre and Birkbeck’s Stratford Student Opportunity Fund over a four year period.

Invited to become a Birkbeck Fellow in 2012, Lord Noon also served as Chancellor of the University of East London. He was a great supporter of widening participation and increasing access to higher education and had a deep understanding of its life-changing benefits. He was particularly pleased that the Noon Foundation was able to support student aspirations in east London through the Stratford Student Opportunity Fund.

His Board memberships included chairing the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry in 2002, the first ever non-white President of the LCCI, and serving on the Advisory Board of the Princes Trust. He received a number of honorary degrees and an outstanding lifetime achievement award from the Asian Business Network in 1998 and the Asian Jewel Award in 2003.

Professor David Latchman, Master of Birkbeck, said: “Lord Noon made a significant contribution to the life of Birkbeck and in particular in his support for our students, where his impact will be felt for many years. He will be missed.”