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We should pay wealthy bosses to come to Britain: John Caudwell – the man who pays the most UK tax –  says he wants riches back home and spread around

Published:21:51 BST, 7 September 2019Updated:09:51 BST, 8 September 2019

Billionaire businessman John Caudwell owns a 65 million yacht, a house in Londons Mayfair and a small 12-bedroom country estate, but says hes not interested in luxuries. A treat, he says, is getting out alone on his pedal bike.

Caudwell, who set up mobile phone retailer Phones4U, is estimated to be worth more than 1.5 billion and is famous for being the countrys largest taxpayer.

If he were Chancellor of the Exchequer, he would offer incentives to wealthy business owners to repatriate their headquarters to the UK.

In 2015, he revealed that he and 11 members of his family, including his children, had all been diagnosed with Lyme disease an infection commonly spread by tick bites. He has since set up charity Caudwell LymeCo to raise awareness about the disease and fund research into a reliable test and treatment on the NHS.

Hard work: John Caudwells best year was when he sold Phones4U for 1.5billion in 2006

They taught me that they didnt have any. My father worked as a technical engineering representative for an electric motor rewind company while my mother worked for a local pottery firm. We lived frugally in a terraced house in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire. They were working class and there was never much money.

When I was 14, my father had a stroke and was paralysed. He could no longer go to work, so mother had to do a full-time job, become the breadwinner, look after my invalid father, a seven-year-old son and me. That taught me that financial security and independence is important, especially if you fall ill. It also made me realise how valuable your health is.

When I was four years old, I set up a sale in the yard of our house selling old toys and books to other kids. When I ran out of items, I knocked on other kids doors, buying their toys to put in the sale.

I only made a few pennies but back then 62 years ago that was a lot of money. You could get a bag of Walkers Crisps for a penny.

Creative ways of making money always came naturally. I was born to be an entrepreneur.

Yes, very much so. When my first wife and I got married, we lived in a 14ft caravan on my mothers lawn because we couldnt afford anything else. But we were newly married and in love.

Not really. Ill give a half-hour after-dinner speech for 30,000, but I always ask for the fee to be donated to charity. When I give my speech, I talk about the strategies and qualities you need as an individual to become number one in your own field. It is all about ambition, passion, drive, resilience, commercial intellect and leadership.

What was the best year of your financial life?

IT was 2006 when I sold my business Phones4U for 1.5 billion. That was a colossal sum of money which had been created by years of hard work. Most of it went to me although I gave about 200 million to other people who were involved in the company.

What is the most expensive thing you bought for fun?

Titania, a 73-metre Lurssen yacht. It wasnt just for fun, I dont really do things just for fun, but it was expensive: 35 million I think. I bought it at auction and it was cheap at that price. It was probably worth 65 million. A bargain.

Being too kind and generous. Ive made mistakes bailing friends out of trouble and ending up with it backfiring on me. In terms of my overall wealth, Ive lost small amounts, but Ive lost more than 1 million to friends. They are not friends any more.

You might expect me to say setting up Phones4U. But you can set anything up and when its a success go back and say it was your best decision.

Id say my best decision was borrowing every penny I could to buy the biggest, most luxurious house I could possibly finance when I was 24. It was the late 1970s, I was working for the tyre company Michelin and my bosses were horrified I had bought a four-bedroom detached house for 18,000. They thought I was either naive or stupid. But I believed house prices were going up and I could make a profit.

Three years later, the house was worth 36,000. That enabled me to take out equity to build my own car sales business. Then I set up Midland Mobile Phones which became the Caudwell Group with the retail arm being Phones4U.

Do you save into a pension or invest in the stock market?

I dontsave into a pension. I dont need to. But Ive got a huge amount of wealth invested across a range of assets. I have a business called Signia Wealth which manages wealthy peoples money. It manages my money as well according to directives that I give.

I do. I own a lot of property actually. Ive got a big development in London comprising 30 residential apartments which will be built over the next three to four years. Ive also got a house in Mayfair that Im renovating and a ski home in Vail, Colorado. My main home where I live is a small country estate in Staffordshire. It has 12 bedrooms.

What is the one little luxury you treat yourself to?

I dont really do luxuries. Im not interested in them. I have lots of luxuries of course, but theres nothing I really cherish other than my health and my bike. In a way, you could say cycling is my luxury because time is something I dont have enough of.

If you were Chancellor what is the first thing you would do?

I wouldlook at introducing a range of tax incentives to bring wealthy business owners to the UK. I would encourage them to repatriate their business headquarters here so as to try to grow the UK economy. Id get a team of people to sit down and brainstorm what we could do to achieve that aim like offering tax cuts for the first few years or grants for relocations. Instead, the Government has spent the past two-and-a-half years with their heads buried in preposterous negotiations with Brussels.

Theresa May should have gone in all guns blazing and said within three months: Were leaving the EU with no deal. Then all that intellectual effort that went into the negotiations could have gone into discussions about how we make Britain more attractive.

Do you think it is important to give to charity?

Yes, helping children who wouldnt otherwise get support is my biggest passion in life. I have founded two charities the main one is Caudwell Children. Four years ago, I founded Caudwell LymeCo because of the devastating consequences and effects of Lyme disease in the UK. I had Lyme disease along with other members of my family. We dont know how we got it. As a consequence, we became aware of the severity of the symptoms.

I dont have financial priorities. My three goals in life are to make a big difference to Lyme sufferers, autistic children and youngsters with PANS or PANDAS an illness that kids suffer from thats usually caused by a bacterial infection of the tonsils.

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