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BULLIES TURNED ME INTO A MILLIONAIRE; Yobs drove 4U phone tycoon to success.

Byline: MARTYN LEEK

A MILLIONAIRE mobile phone entrepreneur has revealed the secret of his success - he was BULLIED at school.

John Caudwell, owner of the Phones 4U high street chain, says he was targeted as a kid because he had ginger hair and freckles.

But the businessman said the brutal encounters with childhood thugs meant that he had to learn to 'fight'.

And he believes the bullying toughened him up and helped him make a success of Phones 4U, which now boasts an astonishing pounds 2 BILLION a year turnover.

'It helps in many respects that I had a tough childhood and was used to fighting,' said Mr Caudwell, who was born in Stoke-on-Trent and lives in a pounds 10 million Jacobean mansion near Eccleshall, Staffordshire. 'I don't mean punching people, although that came into it, but I was bullied a lot as a result of me having red curly hair and freckles.

'Throughout my whole life I have had to fight. So I'm used to it.

'When I set up in business, I had no commercial knowledge. I was an engineer at a Michelin tyre factory. I either learned quickly or I died.'

The downturn in the economy has left some experts predicting tough times ahead for businesses.

But Mr Caudwell, a father-ofthree, said he thinks that recessions can sometimes be a good thing.

Comparing them to a forest fire, he said: 'Both take out the dead wood and clear up stuff that is spoiling the environment.

'A recession takes out players who shouldn't be there and who only prospered because of boom times.

'I don't have any fears about recession.'

Mr Caudwell, 50, has been named Britain's 33rd richest man and is worth an estimated pounds 970 million He is renowned for a flamboyant lifestyle and owns a four-seater helicopter, a twin-engined jet, a pounds 1 million schooner and a pounds 250,000 Bentley Azure.

But the Midland multi-millionaire is from a humble background.

Born in the Potteries in 1952, he joined Michelin Tyres as an apprentice engineer in 1969.

But he left in 1981 to run a used car business and then six years later started a business named Midland Mobile Phones.

In 1990 he formed the Caudwell Group and in 1996 he launched Phones 4U, which has twice been named as the UK's fastest growing company. But even he admits that his first foray into the business world with a grocery shop did not go well.

'It was a disaster,' he said. 'I had to use my wages to pay my creditors and make sure I left the business without owing any money.'

In 1987 while running his used car business, Mr Caudwell was quoted pounds 1,500 for one mobile phone - but pounds 1,350 for two.

'As a result of the pounds 150 drop, I thought there must be big margins in this business,' he said. 'I rang Motorola, but I had to be a dealer before they would sell to me.

'A week later I bought 26 phones.' It was a good decision - his Caudwell Group is now estimated to sell a phone or accessory every eighth of a second.

lThe full interview with John Caudwell appears in the February edition of Director magazine

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FIGHTER... mobile phone boss John Caudwell
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Feb 9, 2003
Words:549
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