TRIBUTES have been paid to inspirational chemist and businessman Anwer Patel, one of the brothers behind the pharmacy empire Cohens.

Mr Patel died in the early hours of Wednesday at the age of 66.

Although he will be remembered by most for the Cohens Chemist chain, Mr Patel along with his brother, Yakub were the driving force behind the opening of Essa Academy in Great Lever as part of their work to improve the life chances of young people in Bolton.

Today the school, in the top 20 per cent nationally for pupil progress and oversubscribed, led tributes to Mr Patel.

Andrew Cooper, chief executive of Essa Foundation Academies Trust said: “Everyone at Essa is saddened by the news of Anwer’s passing. He cared deeply about his local community and was one of the co-founders of Essa Academy and was its chair of governors for several years. When Essa Primary Academy opened in 2014 on our Lever Edge Lane site, he became chair of the trustees board.”

Mr Cooper added: “He was a kind and humble man who was committed to improving the life chances of young people and he will be greatly missed in our family of schools.”

The Cohens Group, based at Lostock, described Mr Patel as a ‘true inspiration’ and a man who has left behind a huge legacy.

In a statement the group said:”Everyone within the Cohens Group is deeply saddened by the news of Anwer’s passing. Anwer, along with his brother Yakub, dedicated much of his life to building Cohens Chemist from their first branch in 1979 to the successful pharmacy group that it is today.

“His passion for Cohens and his employees was evident in all he did. He had an incredible presence which made anyone he spoke to feel important. He was a warm, kind and compassionate man who was always willing to help others, especially those less fortunate than him.

“Anwer has left a massive legacy behind and his absence will be felt acutely, not only within Cohens but also in the community which he served. He has been a true inspiration to us all and he will be sorely missed.”

In 2009, Mr Patel along with his brother, was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Bolton in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the Bolton community.

The self-made millionaires were born in Africa and moved to Bolton as children. Mr Patel was a pharmacist and his brother an accountant.

They established their first shop in Rochdale in 1980 then took over Cohens in Market Street, Little Lever, and retained the name for the chain. They went to own around 170 branches across the UK with most located in Lancashire and Yorkshire. They sold 111 pharmacies in 2005 for £130 million but retained ownership of about 30. In 2006 the brothers came third in a list of Britain’s top 10 richest Muslims.