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Chums split pounds 580m from parking cars; NCP men flog firm started on bomb site.

Two pals who forked out just pounds 200 to start a car park business on an old bomb site are selling up - for pounds 580MILLION.

The firm launched by Ronald Hobson and Sir Donald Gosling in 1950 grew into the giant NCP.

They own 72 per cent of shares in the company, which is being snapped by US group Cendant for pounds 801million.

Car parks have already made the pair multi-millionaires.

Dad-of-three Gosling, 69, who was knighted by Harold Wilson, lives in a pounds 1.5million house overlooking the Thames and has a collection of boats including the 245ft yacht Leander, worth pounds 18million.

It has a crew of 24 and is equipped with fax machines and satellite phones.

Gosling hires it out to fellow tycoons for pounds 200,000 a week.

He is the flashy half of the duo and loves throwing lavish parties for pals such as Joan Collins, Jimmy Tarbuck, Tim Rice and the Duchess of York. He also courts politicians and was said to be a big fan of ex- PM Margaret Thatcher.

The staunch monarchist and Tory supporter offered to personally pay pounds 5million towards the cost of a new royal yacht.

But publicity-shy Hobson, 76, who rejected a knighthood from Labour, is thought to be the brains behind the business.

The former soldier was 28 when he came up with the idea of turning a World War II bomb site at Holborn, London, into a car park.

He applied for planning permission to his local council, where Gosling, then 20 and just out of the Navy, was working. He started advising Hobson on his application, but the two hit it off and decided to team up.

However, their business wasn't an instant success as motorists were reluctant to part with 1s 6d - 7.5p in today's money - to park their cars.

Gosling said: "For the first six months, we were lucky if we booked in more than a dozen cars a day - and we had space for 120."

But it eventually took off and now makes annual profits of around pounds 46million. It also owns breakdown firm Green Flag.

In the last four years, Hobson and Gosling have split special dividend payouts of pounds 163million.

But Gosling's huge wealth couldn't help him achieve one big ambition - joining the Royal Yacht Squadron at Cowes.

He's always been keen on sailing and joined the Navy as a 15-year-old during the war.

As a rich, famous and knighted businessman with a big, impressive yacht, he thought he would have no trouble joining the RYS.

But the snooty members threw out his application in 1987 - because he was only a humble able seaman during his time in the Navy.
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Author:Reilly, Kevan
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Mar 24, 1998
Words:451
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