John David Caudwell
7 October 1952
|Education||Berry Hill High School, Stoke-on-Trent|
|Known for||Mobile phone business|
|Net worth|| GB£1.576 billion (Sunday Times Rich List, 2019)|
US$3.1 billion (May 2021)
|Partner(s)||Modesta Vžesniauskaitė (2015-present)|
John David Caudwell (born 7 October 1952) is a British billionaire businessman who founded the mobile phone retailer Phones 4u. He also invests in fashion, real estate and other industries, and chairs Caudwell Children, a children's charity, and Caudwell LymeCo, promoting chronic Lyme disease beliefs in the UK. He is known for being the UK's largest taxpayer.
Caudwell was born in Birmingham but moved with his family as a baby to Stoke-on-Trent and raised in Wellesley Street in Shelton, Staffordshire, and with his brother Brian attended Shelton Church of England School, and then Berry Hill High School. His father had a stroke when Caudwell was 14 and died four years later.
Caudwell abandoned his A-levels to become an apprentice at Michelin, and worked for several years there as an engineering foreman while gaining a HNC in mechanical engineering. Whilst working at Michelin he also ran a corner shop and started a mail order business selling clothing to motorcyclists.
In 1987 Caudwell registered Midland Mobile Phones as a mobile phone wholesaler, initially 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. The business became the Caudwell Group part of which was an independent mobile phone network service provider called Singlepoint and a high street mobile phone retail operation called Phones4U. The group also owned the Discovery Store from 2001. In 2003 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."
Caudwell founded the charity Caudwell Children in 2000. 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 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 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.
He has contributed to 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 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 Land's 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.
In 2019, Caudwell was reported to have donated £500,000 to the Conservative Party ahead of the 2019 United Kingdom general election. He also gave interviews stating that he and many other wealthy individuals would leave the UK if the Labour Party gained power, although he faced criticism for donating such a large sum to a political party, rather than a worthy needy cause.
Caudwell was married to Kate McFarlane for 25 years, ending in 2001, and they had three children. He then had a brief relationship with violinist Jane Burgess, with whom he had daughter Scarlett. He was then in a long-term relationship with former model Claire Johnson for 15 years, with whom he has son Jacobi. They separated in 2014.
In 2015, Caudwell claimed that 11 family members including himself, his ex-wife Kate McFarlane, their two daughters Rebekah and Libby, and his son Rufus had been diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease. In 2018 Caudwell pledged to donate more than one million pounds in order to help fund Lyme disease research, on the condition that the NHS would be able to match his investment.
His current partner is Lithuanian former Olympic cyclist Modesta Vžesniauskaitė. They announced that they were expecting their first baby together in spring 2021. Their son William was born in March 2021.
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- "The Angel". Sky1.sky.com. Retrieved 25 February 2016.
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- "New engines for Formula 1 H2O powerboats". Motorboat & Yachting. 27 February 2012. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
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- "Bomber Command Memorial: Government pledge over shortfall". BBC News. 8 October 2012.
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- Ward, Victoria (13 December 2015). "Phones4U billionaire John Caudwell says 11 family members now diagnosed with Lyme disease". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 17 May 2019.
- "£1m offer for Lyme Disease research". 25 June 2018. Retrieved 23 October 2020.
- Retter, Emily (4 February 2020). "Inside Phones4u tycoon's £250million mansion - Britain's most expensive home". mirror.
- "Billionaire John Caudwell, 68, and girlfriend Modesta Vzesniauskaite expecting first baby together - find out gender". HELLO!. 8 November 2020. Retrieved 21 December 2020.
- Parker, Hayley (18 March 2021). "Billionaire John Caudwell a dad for the sixth time - at the age of 68". StokeonTrentLive. Retrieved 4 May 2021.