Billionaire mobile phone tycoon John Caudwell doesn’t believe in raising money for charity the easy way. His latest exploit to raise more than £20,000 for his charity Caudwell Children involved a climb up Mont Blanc – the highest mountain in Europe.
He and the team tackled the peak on seal-skin coated skis, enduring freezing temperatures and ice-covered slopes. But for John it was worth the effort and the charity haul included a big cash donation from actor Hugh Grant.
John Caudwell was camped at the top of the Birmingham Post Rich List for several years, but last year was pushed down to third place. His climbing skills have got him back up to second.
His fortune has proved resilient during the downturn and he’s been spending money again. He recently splashed out £80 million on property, taking the view that the market was close to the bottom.
He’s certainly not averse to splashing the cash, and paid singing superstar Diana Ross a reported quarter of a million to sing a 40 minute set for his partner Claire Johnson’s 40th birthday bash. Claire fought off breast cancer last year.
That’s not the first time he’s paid the cream of the singing world to perform at his legendary charity events. Previous Caudwell coups include Whitney Houston, Tina Turner and Bryan Adams.
Caudwell Children was founded 10 years ago and is recognised as one of the country’s fastest growing children’s charities.
John Caudwell has already raised more than £10 million for the charity, which helps children with medical conditions. Many thousands of sick and disabled children have benefited from his efforts.
And he’s particularly proud of his own five-year-old son Jacobi who received a Woman’s Own Children of Courage Award at Westminster Abbey after trekking a mile through rugged Welsh countryside to get help for his grandfather who’d fallen into a disused well and broken his leg.
He has devoted around a third of his time to charity work since the Caudwell Group, including the mobile phone empire which he founded – Phones4U – was sold to private equity firms Providence and Doughty Hanson & Co in August 2006. The sale netted £1.46 billion.
When it was established the firm took eight months to sell its first order of 26 phones. When it was sold, the Caudwell Group was selling 26 phones a minute and employed 8,000 people around the globe.
Fifty-seven year old father of five John Caudwell still lives close to his roots in Staffordshire, but now occupies a 50-room £7.5 million Jacobean mansion. He also has homes in Chelsea, and Les Arcs in France. His successful business career has paid for a helicopter, a six-seater plane and a £1 million Sunseeker motorboat, plus a Bentley Azure with the number plate JC1.
All management and administration costs for his charity are covered personally by John Caudwell so every penny raised can go directly towards helping children.
A fierce critic of waste in public services, his business mind is still at work, looking for new opportunities. His name was linked to a possible bailout bid for Birmingham van maker LDV, and he has stakes in Caudwell Marine – a boat engine company based in Capetown – and a leisure company. He was recently placed at number 450 in the Forbes list of world billionaires.