The entrepreneur on the lessons he learnt in the 2008 crash and why he couldn’t bear to part with his plane
What was your first job?
Working on the doors of Portsmouth nightclubs when I was 16. I did that three nights a week. Regulations have been tightened up since then. It paid £6 an hour and I spent the money on renovating a boat.
What’s been your best investment?
I saw a famous old boat called Whitbread, a 22-metre sailing boat, chained to a jetty in Portsmouth. It’s unusual to see a boat being chained but the marina fees hadn’t been paid. I found out who the owners were and bought the boat from them. I then sailed around the world with ten friends off and on for three years. It was the best £15,000 I’ve spent, personally, as I had a great time and we went across the Atlantic. I was in property development at the time.
What’s your business?
We turn around distressed companies in leisure, transport and recruitment. We’ve built that up over the last four years. One of the best investments has been an events company – it was losing £100,000 a year when we bought it in 2016 and now it has a turnover of £5million. It provides corporate entertainment and event crew for festivals.
What would be your money-no-object purchase?
A classic J-Class yacht — they’re the kings of classic yachts. You’re not so much an owner of them, you’re more of a custodian. It’s lovely to see people’s smiles when they see one. They’re part of yachting history. I became interested in sailing because I grew up on the south coast.
What luxury wouldn’t you give up?
My Cirrus SR22 plane — it’s based near my home in Cannes. It allows me to visit all the businesses I own — they’re predominantly based in the UK, but there are also some in Europe. It’s a four-seater plane and has its own parachute on top, in case you get into difficulties.
What’s been your biggest financial regret?
I was wiped out in 2008 with the recession. I was in my 20s, I hadn’t seen an economic cycle, and I had too much debt. I lost £6million and had to go back to basics. I had a tough time — I had depression, and I got run over. I was in property, all the banks called in their loans, I couldn’t finish the building projects and couldn’t sell anything. It all came to a stop. So my regret is not having personal savings.
Are you a spender or a saver?
After what happened to me in 2008, I now make sure I have some buffer savings but I’d say I’m a wise spender. As a dealmaker, if a distressed business comes up you have to move quickly. I spend money but mainly on distressed businesses as I’m buying six a year.
Are you savvy with personal finances?
I wasn’t when I was in my 20s but I am now after seeing that crash. In my 20s, I had a credit card from Coutts. I bought a Ferrari without realising the card debited each month. I was a bit reckless then. I’m much more sensible now.
What was your last impulse purchase?
I bought a speedboat and got it towed to the south of France. Boats are a lot more expensive in France so I’ll take it there, use it for a year and then sell it. I’m based in Cannes and in London. I’m all for an impulse purchase but I need to make sure I’ll get my money back on it.
Cash or card?
Card. I travel so much and Euros are no good in this country. Cash will be a thing of the past soon. I don’t use cash for anything.