John Caudwell

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John Caudwell
John David Caudwell

(1952-10-07) 7 October 1952 (age 66)
Birmingham, England
ResidenceStoke-on-Trent, England
EducationBerry Hill High School, Stoke-on-Trent
Years active1973–present
Known forMobile phone business
Net worthUS$2.4 billion (May 2019)[1]

John David Caudwell (born 7 October 1952) is a British billionaire 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 children's charity[2], and Caudwell LymeCo, promoting the health of Lyme disease sufferers in the UK.[3] He is known for being the UK's largest taxpayer.[4] On the Forbes 2016 list of the world's billionaires, he was ranked #722 with a net worth of US$2.4 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, and with his brother Brian attended Shelton Church of England School,[6] and then Berry Hill High School. His father had a stroke when he was 14 and died 4 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 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.[citation needed]

Caudwell Group[edit]

In 1986 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.[7] 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.[6]

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.

Caudwell's aggressive expansion with Phones 4u into the retail space created a professional rivalry with Charles Dunstone who built the other UK mobile phone powerhouse, 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 Phones 4u 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. 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.[8]

Other projects[edit]

In 2012, Caudwell appeared on Sky One's The Angel.[9]

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.[10][11]

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. It became a national charity in 2006, and as of 2016 Caudwell is the chairman of the board of trustees.[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.[2] The National Autistic Society asked Caudwell's charity to remove claims from its website that it had the society's support.[2]

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 Buffetts' Giving Pledge, which calls on billionaires to commit at least half their wealth to charity during their lifetime.[16]

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.[17]

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.[18]

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.[19]

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.[20]


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.[citation needed]


In April 2010, Caudwell donated £2,000 to Conservative MP Bill Cash's general election fund.[21]

Personal life[edit]

Caudwell was married to Kate McFarlane for 25 years, ending in 2001, and they had three children.[7][22] He then had a relationship with violinist Jane Burgess, with whom he had a daughter.[7] He was then in a long term relationship with Claire Johnson for 15 years, with whom he has a son.[7] They separated in 2014.[22]

In 2015, Caudwell revealed that 11 family members including himself, his ex-wife Kate McFarlane, their two daughters Rebekah and Rhiannon, and his son Rufus all had been diagnosed with Lyme disease.[22][23]


  1. ^ "Forbes profile: John Caudwell". Forbes. Retrieved 17 May 2019.
  2. ^ a b c Moody O (24 June 2016). "Caudwell Children autism charity 'a magnet for quack therapies'". The Times.
  3. ^ "CaudwellLymeCo". Retrieved 2 May 2018.
  4. ^ "UK's biggest taxpayer, John Caudwell, on tax avoidance". BBC News. 29 April 2013. Retrieved 29 April 2015.
  5. ^ "The World's Billionaires (2016 ranking): #722 John Caudwell". Forbes. 1 March 2016. Retrieved 3 January 2017.
  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. Retrieved 20 May 2009.
  8. ^ Julia Finch. "Caudwell sells up and sails away with £1.24bn | Business". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 February 2016.
  9. ^ "The Angel". 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 H20 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. Retrieved 25 February 2016.[permanent dead link]
  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. ^ Duncan, Hugo. "CITY INTERVIEW: John Caudwell set to pedal back from Europe". This is Money. Retrieved 25 February 2016.
  18. ^ "". Retrieved 25 February 2016.
  19. ^ "John Caudwell is fundraising for Caudwell Children". 14 June 2012. Retrieved 25 February 2016.
  20. ^ "電話エッチ掲示板【】-人気おすすめ簡単テレセ案内". 20 June 2014. Retrieved 25 February 2016.
  21. ^ "". 9 April 2010. Retrieved 25 February 2016.
  22. ^ 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.
  23. ^ 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.