A Walsall businessman who made a business worth more than a billion pounds after spotting a gap in the market has been named the top entrepreneur in the UK.
Richard Harpin, the chief executive of Homeserve, was given the nod at the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year awards in London on Monday night.
Homeserve – which offers emergency home insurance and domestic repair coverage – was started in 1993 as a joint venture between Mr Harpin and South Staffordshire water.
It now has a current market capitalisation of about £1.3 billion, with an annual turnover of £555 million and operating profits of £91 million, up 29 per cent on 2007.
From its headquarters in Walsall it oversees operations in the UK, Spain, France and the US. It is also planning to expand into Germany, Italy and the Benelux countries over the next year.
Judges at the event praised Mr Harpin, who started his first business tying flies for fishers as a schoolboy, as a naturally gifted entrepreneur.
He had to compete with dozens of other regional entrepreneurs.
Mr Harpin will now be entered in the World Entrepreneur Of The Year awards in Monte Carlo in May 2009.