Facebook Pixel
Desert Island Discs

John Caudwell, businessman

Description

John Caudwell is a businessman and philanthropist who founded the mobile phone company Phones 4U in 1996. It became the UK’s largest independent mobile phone retailer and made him one of Britain’s most successful businessmen.

John was born in Birmingham and grew up in Stoke-on-Trent. He came up with his first business venture when he was five – he sold his toys to the other children in his neighbourhood. After he left school he became an apprentice engineer at the Michelin Tyre Factory but the hunger to have his own business drove him on. In his spare time he set up a variety of enterprises from a grocery store to a mail order business selling motorcycle clothing.

In 1980 he set up a car dealership with his brother Brian and a few years later spotted a mobile phone in use at a car auction. Although the phone was heavy and cumbersome, John saw the potential of cellular technology and set up his own retail business, starting off with 26 phones which took him almost a year to sell.

In 2000 he set up Caudwell Children, his charity which helps children with disabilities, and remains its largest single benefactor. He was one of the first people in the UK to sign up to Bill and Melinda Gates’s Giving Pledge, vowing to give away 70% of his wealth during his lifetime. In 2006 John sold the Caudwell Group for £1.5 billion.


Presenter Lauren Laverne
Producer Paula McGinley