John Caudwell

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John Caudwell
John David Caudwell

(1952-10-07) 7 October 1952 (age 71)
Birmingham, England
EducationBerry Hill High School
Years active1973–present
Known forFounder, Phones 4u
PartnerModesta Vžesniauskaitė (2015–present)

John David Caudwell (born 7 October 1952) is a British billionaire businessman who founded the now defunct mobile phone retailer Phones 4u. He also invests in fashion, property and other industries, and chairs Caudwell Children, a children's charity,[1] and Caudwell LymeCo, promoting chronic Lyme disease beliefs in the UK.[2][3]

According to the Sunday Times Rich List in 2022, Caudwell is worth £1.58 billion.[4] On the Forbes 2022 list of the world's billionaires, he was ranked #984 with a net worth of US$2.8 billion.[5]

Early life[edit]

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,[6] 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,[7] 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.

Caudwell Group[edit]

In 1987 Caudwell registered Midland Mobile Phones as a mobile phone wholesaler, initially taking 26 Motorola mobiles at £1,350 each.[7] It took 8 months to sell these 26 phones to local plumbers, taxi drivers and television repairmen at a price of £2,500 each. The company made a loss every month for the first two years of operations.[6] 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, renamed it to Must Have It in 2004, and closed it in 2005. In 2003 he sold Singlepoint to Vodafone for £405m (then $648m).[8] 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.[9]

Other projects[edit]

Caudwell was the owner of the South African F1 Powerboat racing team Caudwell Racing which competed in the championship between the 2012 and the 2014 seasons. The team made history by competing with four-stroke engines compared to the traditional and widely used two-strokes.[10][11] Caudwell Racing did not return for the 2015 season, having folded the previous year without completing the season.

Charity interests[edit]

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."[12]

Caudwell founded the charity Caudwell Children in 2000.[13] 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."[12] The charity has proved controversial because it promotes unproven and dubious health practices and has aligned itself with antivaccinationists.[1] The National Autistic Society asked Caudwell's charity to remove claims that it had the Society's support from its website.[1]

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.[14] In October 2012, Caudwell was one of three principal private donors for the London's Bomber Command Memorial Appeal.[15]

In February 2013, he became one of the first Britons to sign up for Bill Gates and Warren Buffett's Giving Pledge, which calls on billionaires to commit at least half their wealth to charity during their lifetime.[16]

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.[17] 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.[18]

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.[19]

In 2019, the Caudwell Children charity opened the Caudwell International Children’s Centre in Staffordshire, which provides services for children with autism.[20][21]


In April 2010, Caudwell donated £2,000 to Conservative MP Bill Cash's general election fund.[22]

In 2019, Caudwell was reported to have donated £500,000 to the Conservative Party, making him the biggest donor to the party ahead of the 2019 United Kingdom general election.[23][24] He also gave interviews stating that he and many other wealthy individuals would leave the UK if the Labour Party gained power and increased taxes.[25]

In 2022, in response to the Westminster lockdown parties controversy, Caudwell expressed concerns with the Conservative party under Boris Johnson's leadership.[26]


Caudwell is reported to be a proud Brexiteer, alongside a number of other British billionaires.[27]

On Brexit, he is reported to have called UK politicians “lily-livered” and the EU “Brussels bully boys”.[27] He is also quoted to have said, “I don't understand how intelligent people, successful people, can’t see the benefits of being out of Europe.” ... “I think MPs are disgusting. Really disgusting. This shilly-shallying, I don’t understand [it]. Why don’t they understand that saying we’re going to have a no deal is the best way to get a good deal? You can already see the change in attitude from the EU. They’re trembling.”[27]

Climate Change[edit]

In 2023, Caudwell described the weakening of green policies by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak as “madness” and said he would consider switching his support to Labour.[24]

Personal life[edit]

Caudwell was married to Kate McFarlane for 25 years. The couple divorced in 2001, and they had three children.[7][28] He then had a brief relationship[29] with violinist Jane Burgess, with whom he had a daughter.[7][30] He was then in a long-term relationship with former model Claire Johnson for 15 years, with whom he has a son.[7][30][31] They separated in 2014.[28]

In 2015, Caudwell claimed that 11 family members including himself, his ex-wife Kate McFarlane, their two daughters and their son had been diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease.[2][28][32][30] 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.[33]

His partner is mother of their two children together, Lithuanian born former Olympic cyclist Modesta Vžesniauskaitė.[34] They announced that they were expecting their first baby together in spring 2021,[35] The couple have a son, William John on 16 March the same year.[36] Septuagenarian Caudwell, announced the birth of their daughter Isabella Sky, born on 27 March 2023.[37]

Caudwell lives in multiple homes including Broughton Hall in Staffordshire, Monaco and London's Mayfair[38][39]


  1. ^ a b c Moody O (24 June 2016). "Caudwell Children autism charity 'a magnet for quack therapies'". The Times.
  2. ^ a b Ruz, Camila (21 October 2015). "The controversy over the chronic form of Lyme disease". BBC News. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  3. ^ "CaudwellLymeCo". 12 May 2017. Retrieved 2 May 2018.
  4. ^ "The Sunday Times Rich List 2022". Retrieved 8 August 2022.
  5. ^ "Forbes profile: John Caudwell". Forbes. Retrieved 31 August 2022.
  6. ^ a b "The John Caudwell Story". BBC Stoke & Staffordshire. Retrieved 20 May 2009.
  7. ^ a b c d e Parkinson, Gary (21 January 2006). "A day in the life of John Caudwell: How to make your first £1bn: start planning at the age of eight". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on 1 December 2008. Retrieved 20 May 2009.
  8. ^ "Vodafone snaps up Singlepoint". BBC news website. 11 August 2003.
  9. ^ Julia Finch. "Caudwell sells up and sails away with £1.24bn | Business". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 February 2016.
  10. ^ "South Africa's Caudwell Racing Brings 4-Stroke Technology To F1!". F1H2O. 25 February 2012. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  11. ^ "New engines for Formula 1 H2O powerboats". Motorboat & Yachting. 27 February 2012. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  12. ^ a b "John Caudwell: 'My fortune's not enough to help all the children...' | Stoke Sentinel". 25 May 2010. Archived from the original on 5 August 2013. Retrieved 25 February 2016.
  13. ^ "Our history". Caudwell Children. Archived from the original on 17 February 2016. Retrieved 25 February 2016.
  14. ^ "Tycoon John Caudwell makes 'six-figure' donation to secure Middleport Pottery". Stoke Sentinel. 26 October 2011. Archived from the original on 29 October 2012. Retrieved 25 February 2016.
  15. ^ "Bomber Command Memorial: Government pledge over shortfall". BBC News. 8 October 2012.
  16. ^ "Mobile Phone Billionaire Dials in for Gates-Buffet Giving Pledge". Forbes. 19 February 2013. Retrieved 29 April 2015.
  17. ^ "". Retrieved 25 February 2016.
  18. ^ "John Caudwell is fundraising for Caudwell Children". 14 June 2012. Retrieved 25 February 2016.
  19. ^ "電話エッチ掲示板【】-人気おすすめ簡単テレセ案内". 20 June 2014. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 25 February 2016.
  20. ^ McInnes, Kathie (14 May 2019). "This stunning £18m centre is set to transform autistic children's lives". StokeonTrentLive. Retrieved 5 October 2022.
  21. ^ Wu, Rose (7 October 2021). "Monaco fundraiser donates £1.52 million to Caudwell Children". Monaco Tribune. Retrieved 5 October 2022.
  22. ^ "". 9 April 2010. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 25 February 2016.
  23. ^ "BBC News - General election 2019: Surge in Tory donations before polling day". 23 December 2019. Retrieved 23 December 2019.
  24. ^ a b Clinton, Jane (23 September 2023). "Major Tory donor says he will not back Sunak due to green U-turn 'madness'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 24 September 2023.
  25. ^ correspondent, Rupert Neate Wealth (24 April 2019). "Phones4u founder vows to leave UK to avoid higher taxes". The Guardian – via
  26. ^ "Sort it out or step aside, Tory donor tells Boris Johnson". BBC News. 11 January 2022. Retrieved 12 January 2022.
  27. ^ a b c Dawkins, David (10 October 2019). "Billionaire John Caudwell: 'This Might Make Me Sound Capitalistic And Right-Wing—I'm Not'". Forbes. Retrieved 5 March 2023.
  28. ^ a b c Jamieson, Sophie (22 September 2015). "Phones4U billionaire John Caudwell 'devastated' after whole family diagnosed with Lyme disease". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 17 May 2019.
  29. ^ "The boss who gave £3,500,000 to his workers". The Independent. 18 September 2011. Retrieved 4 May 2021.
  30. ^ a b c Rodger, James (10 June 2019). "Inside Birmingham billionaire's daughter's lavish wedding on dream island". BirminghamLive. Retrieved 4 May 2021.
  31. ^ "The Jane Martinson interview: Gruff and tough operator rings off with a billion". The Guardian. 11 August 2006. Retrieved 4 May 2021.
  32. ^ 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.
  33. ^ "£1m offer for Lyme Disease research". 25 June 2018. Retrieved 23 October 2020.
  34. ^ Retter, Emily (4 February 2020). "Inside Phones4u tycoon's £250million mansion - Britain's most expensive home". mirror.
  35. ^ "Billionaire John Caudwell, 68, and girlfriend Modesta Vzesniauskaite expecting first baby together - find out gender". HELLO!. 8 November 2020. Retrieved 21 December 2020.
  36. ^ Parker, Hayley (18 March 2021). "Billionaire John Caudwell a dad for the sixth time - at the age of 68". StokeonTrentLive. Retrieved 4 May 2021.
  37. ^ "Septuagenarian welcomes his seventh child Isabella Sky".
  38. ^ Odell, Michael. "John Caudwell: why I loaned Boris Becker £1m (he's not a 'mate')". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 8 August 2022.
  39. ^ Inside London’s £250m Mayfair Mansion | Britain’s Most Expensive Home | Channel 4, retrieved 24 January 2024