Geoffrey Atkinson OBE, who was chief executive of automotive industry charity Ben from 1978 to 2004, has died after a short illness.

According to Automotive Management, together with Ben's director of welfare, Atkinson set up the first industry day care centre at Peugeot in Coventry. Ben said his leadership proved to be invaluable when the 1990 recession hit and he persuaded each member of staff to take a 5% pay cut, led by himself, and also to volunteer to give five hours each week in the centres.

In the mid-seventies, Geoffrey was among those who formed the Petroleum Retailers Association. The association was set up with the aim of addressing the unfairness of the abandonment of leases, being replaced by a licensing alternative which had serious restrictions on the previous tenants who were concerned. Membership was offered across both sectors, dealers and licensees. In time, the organisation was taken over by the Motor Agents Association (MAA) on the understanding that petroleum would have a separate committee to continue to address matters for members. The National Petrol Committee of the MAA was formed and the first chairman was John Lowe of Thames Rico. In 1987, after Geoffrey had been offered the position of CEO of BEN, the MAA agreed to set up a separate association and the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA), which is today’s part of the Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMI), was formed.

After his retirement in 2004 at the age of 65 he continued to be part of several organisations, including The Fellowship of the Motor Industry, the Motoring Guild of Advertisers and an amateur dramatic group called the Garrison Players - evoking his early career in acting when he'd had roles in The Mousetrap in London and TV shows Emergency Ward 10 and The Army Game. He maintained his support of Ben, and in 2009 he and his wife Tina Steele, Ben's former fundraising director, did a skydive to raise £16,000 for the charity.

Atkinson was awarded an OBE in 2000 in recognition of his work and time spent making a significant difference to the lives of so many people.

"Geoffrey was instrumental in developing and implementing Ben’s first five year plan in 1978, which achieved its ambitious objectives of developing new sheltered housing; building a new nursing and residential complex; building a special unit for people with dementia and achieving an income of £1.5m by 1983. Geoffrey was responsible for the acquisition and subsequent conversion of Alexandra House in Southport into a care centre in 1979 and the building of Town Thorns Care Centre and sheltered housing provision in the Midlands, which opened in 1981. Additionally, in 1997, he led the charity in opening its Day Care Centre, which provides day care for older people and those living with dementia", said the charity.

Atkinson had suffered from Alzheimer in recent years and lately suffered a chest infection from which he did not recover. His death leaves his wife Tina, children Kate, Tim and Mike, stepdaughter Kirsty and nine grandchildren.

RMI extend our sincere condolences to the family and friends of Geoffrey Atkinson OBE.