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 Inside Out - West Midlands: Monday July 7, 2003


John Caudwell on the left  hosting a charity ball
John Caudwell a self made millionaire

From sweeping floors in a pottery to an £840 million fortune - John Caudwell's life is an extraordinary tale of rags to riches. Inside Out gets a unique opportunity to get behind the notorious hard man image and discover the real John Caudwell.

John Caudwell is the epitome of a self made man. He began his career sweeping floors, now John is the owner of the biggest independent mobile phone retailer in Europe and a £840 million fortune.

This may be the stuff that dreams are made of, but for John, his success came as no surprise.

"I did imagine becoming a millionaire when I was seven years old," says John.

"I always had a passionate belief in my ability to succeed at anything I did."

Once upon a time…

Like all good fairy tales, John's success has not come easy. John's fortune was not made through a lucky lottery win, nor was he heir to an estate.

John Caudwell with an early mobile phone
John had the foresight to see how mobile phones could become big business

It was sheer hard work, determination and amazing foresight that rocketed John Caudwell from obscurity to a place in the top 30 richest Britain's.

"I was brought up in a fairly poor neighbourhood," says John.

"I was bullied a lot… I think that made me into a bit of a fighter."

John and his brother Brian began selling mobile phones when they were largely unheard of, the size of a house brick and a craze that many thought would never catch on!

The Caudwell Group is now the biggest independent cellphone retailer in Europe.

But John is not content to rest on his laurels. Where his business is concerned John is still very much hands on.

On yer bike

John Caudwell
"I think cutting through the crap is right. I like to be upfront and open," says John

John's monthly board meetings highlight a weak store in the area and John decides to pay them a visit.

So how does a multi-millionaire arrive at one of his retail outlets? Chauffeur driven Bentley? Helicopter?

Not today - John arrives by bike!

A keen cyclist and fitness enthusiast, John takes every opportunity to get in vital training for his forthcoming charity bike ride.

But judging by this performance - John needs little practice.

John cycles the 43 mile journey from Stoke on Trent to Birmingham in just two hours, before giving the area manager a dressing down.

"I pay the absolute top dollar to get the very, very best people," explains John.

"I put them in the roles and they have to survive and prosper by their own abilities. If they don't - they go."

You shall go to the ball

John greeting Zara Phillips
John's charity ball boasts royalty - Princess Anne's daughter Zara Phillips arrives

John may have a hard head when it comes to business, but no-one could accuse him of having a hard heart.

John is throwing a star studded charity ball - the biggest in the UK.

John even boasts royalty amongst his guests as Princess Anne's daughter, Zara Phillips arrives in time for the auction.

In less than an hour, John succeeds in raising nearly £150,000 for charity.

So once again John is beating those targets, but can Inside Out persuade him to share the secrets of his success?

"Everything is a positive if you can make it into it," reveals John. "It's very rare that you can't make a negative into a positive."

But as for taking time out to enjoy his wealth, John can not be persuaded.

"If I could just do everything I wanted because I've got all the time in the world and all the money in the world, then I think it would be a bit empty, a bit valueless."

See also ...

BBC: Business and Money

On the rest of the web
The Caudwell Group
The Caudwell Charitable Trust - Charity Ball
The Sunday Times Rich List

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