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March 26, 2013

John Vail passed away peacefully on Friday, 22 March 2013, aged 75.

John started his 41-year career in property when he joined Austin & Wyatt - a firm of agricultural surveyors in Fareham, Hampshire, where he was an articled clerk to the senior partner, Stuart Wyatt. On completing his articles, he joined Savills in London where he became involved in commercial agency. 

John returned to the south coast where he joined his father, Lionel Vail, who had opened a practice in Southsea in 1929 before moving to Gosport before the Second World War. L S Vail at that time was a predominantly residential firm with two other offices, one in Lee on Solent and another in Fareham. John joined the partnership when the firm became known as L S Vail & Son. He was also joined by David Meech and Ian Mead, both of whom were also articled at Austin & Wyatt.

In 1968 John Vail and Jeremy Lear, who had been articled to Lionel Vail, set up the commercial department of the firm. Over the next few years, both the residential and commercial elements of the firm expanded. A number of residential offices were opened in Hampshire. The commercial department relocated to separate offices in Fareham and subsequent offices were opened in Basingstoke and Southampton.

In 1987 the residential side of the firm, which then comprised 15 offices, was sold to the Halifax Building Society and the commercial department continued to trade on its own account until it merged in January 1988 with Pearson Williams, which operated out of Reading, Camberley and Bracknell to form Vail Williams. 

Commenting on John's career, Ian Rudland, CEO of Vail Williams, said: "During the 1970s and 1980s, south Hampshire saw tremendous growth both in residential and commercial terms. John Vail's particular expertise was industrial and office development and the firm became synonymous with many of the major development projects that took place in the region. John Vail had tremendous vision and was instrumental in bringing forward the development of major projects including Solent Business Park, Ocean Village, Port Solent, Gunwharf Quays and Southampton Science Park at Chilworth."

Ian added: "John was a man with an immense energy, personality and integrity, a renowned character and visionary in the property industry. It has been a privilege for me to lead Vail Williams but in particular to follow in John's footsteps, a man I hugely admired and held in great esteem. We were deeply saddened to hear of his recent death, and our thoughts are with his family at this time."

In recognition of his contribution to the real estate industry, John was awarded an honorary degree from the University of Southampton in 1997.

Educated at Clifton College, Bristol, John Vail was a talented sportsman playing rugby for Richmond RFC, Portsmouth RFC and Hampshire. His connections with the rugby world resulted in the firm representing the RFU for a number of years. He was also an accomplished horseman and tennis player.