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|Born||John David Caudwell
7 October 1952
|Education||Berry Hill High School, Stoke-on-Trent|
|Known for||Mobile phone business|
|Net worth||US$2.4 billion (Forbes 2016)|
John David Caudwell (born 7 October 1952) is an English businessman who co-founded the mobile phone retailer Phones 4u. He also invests in fashion, real estate and other industries, and chairs Caudwell Children, a controversial children's charity. He is known for being the UK's biggest taxpayer. On the Forbes 2016 list of the world's billionaires, he was ranked #722 with a net worth of US$2.4 billion.
Caudwell was born in Birmingham but moved with his family as a baby to Stoke-on-Trent and raised in Wellesley Street in Shelton, and with his brother Brian attended Shelton Church of England School, and then Berry Hill High School. His father had a stroke when he was 14 and died 4 years later. His mother lives in the Midlands.
Caudwell abandoned his A-levels to become an apprentice at Michelin, and worked for several years there as an engineering foreman while gaining an HNC in mechanical engineering. Whilst working at Michelin he also ran a corner shop and started a mail order business selling clothing to motor bikers, both of which were successful, his motorcycle clothing business so much so that the manufacturer for a period refused to sell him stock because he was outperforming established retailers.
In 1986, whilst still trading motorcars, Caudwell became aware of the first of the then new mobile phones, and discovered that there were large profit margins possible, so contacted the American handset maker Motorola to see if he could do a deal.
With his brother Brian, in 1987 Caudwell registered Midland Mobile Phones as a mobile phone wholesaler, taking 26 Motorola mobiles at £1,350 each. It took 8 months to sell these 26 phones to local plumbers, taxi drivers and television repairmen at a price of £2,000 each. The company made a loss every month for the first two years of operations.
Developing from a small dealership to a wholesale distributor, however, turnover expanded to £13 million in 1991, making it the UK's largest independent distributor of mobile phones. Turnover increased from £13 million in 1991 to over £1 billion in 2000. In 1996 and 1997, the Caudwell Group was named the UK's fastest-growing company for two years in succession.
His aggressive expansion with Phones4U into the retail space created a professional rivalry with Charles Dunstone who built that other UK mobile dynasty, Carphone Warehouse. Whereas Dunstone's success was forged in the retail side of mobile, the Caudwell empire was built on the success of wholesaling with 20:20 Distribution – which became one of the largest handset distributors in Europe – and Singlepoint, an airtime reseller for Vodafone. The dominance of 20:20 in the fast-growing UK mobile market paved the way for aggressive expansion into retail and accessories, with the development of Phones4u and Dextra.
By 2003, the Caudwell Group employed over 8,000 people worldwide and was selling 26 phones every minute.
A bull market player by nature, Caudwell could see the end of the growth days looming. He sold Singlepoint to Vodafone, for £405m (then $648m). Caudwell completed the sale of the wider business on 26 September 2006, when it was revealed that the Caudwell Group had been sold for a £1.46 billion to private equity firms Providence Equity Partners and Doughty Hanson.
Caudwell is also the owner of the South African F1 Powerboat racing team Caudwell Racing which has competed in the championship since 2012. The team has made history by competing with revolutionary four-stroke engines compared to the traditional and widely used two-strokes.
In 1999, Caudwell was appointed as the President of the North Staffordshire branch of the NSPCC, and became the regional representative for the Full Stop campaign. Of the appointment, he says: "I was initially approached by the NSPCC to sponsor a cricket match. As is my way I got stuck in, took the whole thing over and was determined to raise as much money as I could." He was inspired to help children because of this experience: "I went to one of the NSPCC's centres and met some of the children who had been victims of cruelty and sexual abuse and it really opened my heart to helping children."
Caudwell founded the charity Caudwell Children in 2000. It became a national charity in 2006, and as of 2016[update] Caudwell is the chairman of the board of Trustees. Of the charity, he said: "I wanted to make sure that every penny that was raised would be put to the best use and spent on the children that needed it. My family puts about £2 million a year towards Caudwell Children. In addition I put in a lot of my time and I do a lot of networking. [But] the truth is my fortune isn't enough to help all the children that need help." The charity has proved controversial because it promotes unproven and dubious health practices based and has aligned itself with antivaccinationists. The National Autistic Society asked Caudwell's charity to remove claims from its website that it had the society's support.
In October 2011, he made a "significant" six-figure donation to the Middleport Pottery (one of the last working Victorian pot banks in Britain) in Stoke-on-Trent, through The Prince's Regeneration Trust. In October 2012, Caudwell was one of three principal private donors for the London's Bomber Command Memorial Appeal.
In February 2013, he became one of the first Britons to sign up for Bill Gates and Warren Buffetts' Giving Pledge, which calls on billionaires to commit at least half their wealth to charity during their lifetime.
As of July 2013, Caudwell Children has raised £27 million since its inception in 2000. As a result of his charitable work and his financial success, he now plans to give away at least half his wealth when he dies.
His key charitable pursuit is supporting Caudwell Children; however, he is also a significant and regular contributor to and supporter of a number of charitable causes including The Prince's Regeneration Trust, Marie Curie, the Elton John AIDS Foundation, ARK (Absolute Return for Kids), Great Ormond Street Hospital and The Carers Trust, amongst others.
He still donates to the NSPCC, and undertakes regular 1,000-mile charity bike rides to raise funds for many children's charities. On one fundraising bike ride from Lands End to John O'Groats in 2012, he raised £58,021 for Caudwell Children.
Caudwell has been awarded accolades for his philanthropic efforts. On 8 December 2012 at The Noble Gift Gala, he was presented with The Noble Gift Philanthropreneur Award by Hollywood actress Eva Longoria for his dedication to charity work.
Caudwell Properties Limited is involved in property acquisition, management and development. While much of the Caudwell portfolio is solid commercial real estate, more recently he has acquired property in Mayfair in London, the core of which is Audley Square Car Park and some surrounding buildings.
Caudwell's intention – for which he has applied for planning permission – is to replace the car park with super-prime residential apartments and town houses described by him as being in the style of "grand Mayfair architecture". Caudwell has a rigid belief that completion of his iconic apartment block, in place of a multi-storey car park widely considered to be a blight on the local skyline, Audley Square could become a desirable living addresses and will represent the heart of ‘Mayfair Village’.
Caudwell was married to Kate for 25 years, ending in 2001. They had three children. He then had a relationship with violinist Jane Burgess, with whom he had a daughter. He was then in a long term relationship with Claire Johnson for 15 years, with whom he has a son, but it was reported in October 2014 that they had separated.
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