Britain's Top 100 Entrepreneurs: Premier league

Investors wary of high-tech stock take note - our elite Top 10 manifest a distinct techno and telecommunications bias. But there's a touch of showbiz stardust too.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

1: MICHAEL NEWTON - Anglo Design Holdings

'I have been known to say my business is not a democracy, but I wouldn't go so far as to call myself a dictator, says Michael Newton, Britain's king of CCTV. It helps that he fully owns his Cheshirebased business, Anglo Design Holdings, and is not beholden to outside investors. But how did this Manchester University computer sciences graduate manage to build a business for which he has had offers in excess of ú400 million?

It's a far cry from the early days when, as a 22-year-old graduate in 1982, Newton begged ú6,000 from friends and family to start up Dedicated Micros, from which Anglo Design emerged five years ago. Originally, Newton produced a device that timed how long snooker players spent at the table.

It was a modest success, but in 1985 he invented a multi-channel CCTV recorder, which was an instant hit. Here, Newton's strengths as an entrepreneur came into play. As business owner, he could make decisions quickly and move on from mistakes; as a techie, he could talk to his researchers as an equal. But he didn't listen when doubters said that remote viewing of CCTV over ISDN lines would not take off. That is now the fastest-growing part of his business.

He leaves the cameras to others, concentrating instead on the complex software and associated hardware that streams footage from a mass of cameras on to a single recorder and screen. Newton makes Big Brother work, and organisations such as the US government, BP Amoco and Heathrow airport like his products.

Newton likes the freedom to make decisions unhindered, but it wasn't always so. In 1997 he took on private equity firm 3i as a partner, fearing that the operation was growing too fast for him to handle. It proved a disaster: 3i couldn't work with him and Newton felt the company was paralysed by the slowness of decision-making. Four years later, 3i sold its shares back to Newton for ú2 million, having bought them for 10 times that sum.

Yet some good came from the 3i days: 3i spun off Anglo Design, then an obscure division of Dedicated Micros, and Newton developed it. With Dedicated Micros back under his wing, he runs both operations with the speed and ruthlessness that befits a fan of the Blitzkrieg approach and a driver who takes part in the Le Mans 24-hour race.

In the year to June 2003, Anglo Design grew sharply, making ú25.2 million profit on ú72.5 million sales. Newton is determined to be number one in CCTV, overtaking American giant Honeywell. The market is big enough, as the CCTV industry doubles in size every four years. Newton is set to be the first CCTV billionaire - and he doesn't want any outside investors a second time round. Few would bet against him.

2: SIMON NIXON - moneysupermarket.com

Simon Nixon's company is one of the UK's few real internet successes. Even so, it hasn't been able to overcome stock market nervousness: last July, it shelved plans for a 2004 flotation, following the savaging of recent new issues such as Virgin Mobile. He hopes to float it this year, but that is not a certainty. Yet the business continues to make money dispensing financial advice and services. In 2003, it made a profit of E8.5 million on sales of ú38 million.

For Nixon, co-founder of the group, dropping out of university proved his passport to a fortune. He became a financial adviser, and with Duncan Cameron, the brother of his girlfriend at the time, he launched Mortgage 2000, providing brokers with weekly updates on all mortgages available. It evolved into a trade magazine Broker Update.

The explosive growth of the internet posed a 'massive threat to our business', Nixon recalls, 'but also huge opportunities'. The partners set up their own site for surfers to compare quotes for mortgages, credit cards, personal loans and savings accounts. It proved a phenomenal success. Credit cards and loans are the big sellers, the site claiming 14,000 applications daily. Flights are covered by sister company travelsupermarket.com, and the partners plan to add car hire and hotels.

Nixon, recently named an Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young, is careful with his own money. He bakes his own bread and, although he loves Ferraris, won't have more than one. 'I'm dead tight and I hate paying tax and insurance on two cars; he says. In the current climate, Nixon would probably agree that the ú500 million price tag on the business may be a little optimistic. We settle for ú400 million, which values his 47.5% stake at ú190 million.

3: PETER JONES - Phones International Group

Peter Jones' telecom sales and distribution operation made ú1.8 million profit on ú189 million sales in 2002-03. The fast-growing concern has been built up by Jones, whose first business was a tennis coaching club set up when he was 17 - after persuading the Lawn Tennis Association to let him sit the coaching exams a year early. By 28, he was the youngest board director at Siemens Nixdorf, having turned round its UK computer business. He launched Phones International in 1998. Jones retains ownership of the entire company, and a flotation is likely for the business.

4: PATRICK McKENNA - Ingenious Ventures

Top accountant Patrick McKenna has been advising Victoria Beckham on her new career (or lack of it). He has experience of music business success, having run Lord Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Group. But McKenna - who has three children - now runs his own entertainment investment firm. Profits at Ingenious Ventures doubled to ú18.1 million on ú33.9 million sales in 2002-03, representing a tasty 53% profit margin.

McKenna makes most of his cash organising finance for film and TV projects. A friend of Simon Fuller, he also has a 5% stake in the pop Svengali's 19 Entertainment operation. McKenna is generous with his money, having recently handed over El million to help build a new Young Vic theatre. With a ú150 million fortune, the Brentwoodbased moneyman can afford it.

5: ANDREW TURNER - Central Trust

From a small London office, Andrew Turner - another accountant - set up Central Trust in 1987 as a broker and lender of secured loans for consumers. Now based in Norwich, this business is growing fast, with another 220 jobs due to be created in the next two years. Central Trust's principal subsidiary is one of the largest independent finance brokers offering loans to UK homeowners, while other subsidiaries operate in the loan packaging, mortgage packaging and telemarketing markets.

Central Trust's sales and profits have surged on the back of the consumer borrowing spree of recent years, and in 2003 it made ú20.5 million profit on ú50.4 million sales. On these figures, it is worth perhaps ú200 million.

Earlier this year, Turner launched a state-of-the art computer system, which he reckons will give Central Trust a competitive advantage. His goal is to make it Britain's leading independent supplier of personal finance products (he owns 100% of the shares). It's a demanding target, but few would doubt that the low-key accountant can pull it off.

=6: JOHN CAUDWELL - Phones4u

Irrepressible is the word for John Caudwell. While Stoke's only billionaire was jogging with the Olympic flame in London last June, some ungrateful so-and-so was nicking his ú5,000 bike. But it didn't prevent Caudwell from embarking on a 2,300-mile ride from Athens to Stoke in October to raise ú500,000 for his Caudwell Charitable Trust.

Before he set off, Caudwell reminded everyone why he is such a formidable force in the mobile phone industry. He declared war on internet giants AOL and Wanadoo by launching a cut-price internet and telephone package. Phones4u is locked in a bitter battle with the quoted Carphone Warehouse business, and Caudwell has the cash for a long fight: in August 2003, he sold his Singlepoint customer billing operation to mobiles giant Vodafone for ú405 million.

That left him with three operations: Phones4u; 20:20 Logistics, a mobile distributor; and novelty gift chain Discovery Store. Not bad for someone whose first job was as an engineering apprentice at Michelin Tyres in Stoke.

He quit school before his A-Levels, with a burning desire to get out, on, up and rich. Eventually, he became a successful car dealer, but then struck gold with an early move into mobile phones. Today, he is the biggest independent player in the European mobile phone industry. Sales at his Caudwell Group in 2003 rose by more than ú200 million to ú2.28 billion and profits by almost 50% to ú45 million.

=6: SIMON FULLER - 19 Entertainment

Visitors to Simon Fuller's house in Provence are given '19' branded olive oil, harvested from the groves around his house. It's symbolic of just how far the former Chrysalis talent scout has come. The number 19 stands for his hugely successful music-to-media operation, 19 Entertainment, formed in 1985 and named after the anti-Vietnam anthem '19', sung by Paul Hardcastle, Fuller's first discovery.

The single sold 8 million copies worldwide in the 1980s. Fuller later managed Annie Lennox and the Spice Girls (until they split from him in a deal that made him ú20 million). Last year, he became the first British manager since' Brian Epstein to have three best-selling singles in America at the same time.

Fuller has also had huge success in TV through programmes such as Pop Idol and its US offshoot American Idol. Another spin-off, Junior Idol, is winning 12 million viewers a week on Fox2. Other TV projects include I Dream, a musical kids show with the BBC, and an animated children's series, Hipster and Jack.

In the year to June 2003, profits at 19 Entertainment doubled to ú9.5 million on sales of ú53.4 million. Fuller is forecasting 100% growth year-on-year for three years. He recently hinted that he might sell up to 75% of his master company, with a ú200 million valuation being mooted for the whole business.

8: HAMISH OGSTON - CPP Group

Hamish Ogston really does know about good service. The son of a dental surgeon, he tried a number of ventures after university before setting up the CPP Group in 1980. The York-based operation is a leading provider of customer assistance products and services throughout Europe and America. These include Card Protection Plan, providing credit card protection to millions of card users. It also runs similar services such as Key Cover for lost keys, Fone Safe for mobile phones and Financial Health for personal financial management.

CPP partners more than 350 leading consumer brands in the financial services, utilities, telecom and retail sectors. In all, the group has a worldwide base of more than 11.3 million customers. Ogston slogged away from 1980 to 1990 as the enterprise made losses for the entire decade, refusing to give up. His reward: a business that in 2003 achieved ú8.5 million profit on ú132 million sales. On these figures, it's easily worth ú375 million.

9: DUNCAN BANNATYNE - Bannatyne Fitness

Having conquered the world of business, Duncan Bannatyne now wants to be a luvvie. After paying ú7,000 at a charity auction for a part in a Guy Ritchie movie, he took lessons at RADA in London and the New York Film Academy. 'I'm fed up with making money', he said recently. 'I've made enough now. I never set out to be a millionaire, I just knew I could never be poor. Now I want to concentrate on something else. I like the fact that people don't think I can do it and I want to prove them wrong.'

Unlike other aspiring actors, Bannatyne won't have to wait in a restaurant or serve behind a bar, despite having left his Clydebank school at 15 with no qualifications. His first job was delivering bread, which paid him enough to secure a mortgage. He bought an ice-cream van in north-east England and with the profits from this he bought four houses and refurbished them as B&B hostels. Later, Bannatyne built a nursing home and developed it into a chain of 30 homes, which he sold in 1997, netting ú26 million for his stake. He put ú20 million of that into a fitness club venture. Along the way, he made ú22 million from selling his 80% stake in the Just Learning nursery operation he developed after failing to find a nursery for his children. Bannatyne Fitness is now worth perhaps ú80 million, with sales of ú28 million in 2003 yielding a ú3.8 million profit. With his villa in Cannes and a mansion in the north-east, Bannatyne is easily worth ú115 million.

=1O: DR JAN HRUSKA and DR PETER LAMMER - Sophos

A new ú32 million HQ has just opened in Abingdon for Sophos - a sign that the battle against computer viruses is an unrelenting and booming business. With 20 million users of its products, Sophos is one of those classic niche high-tech operations that Britain excels at creating. The business dates back to when founders Jan Hruska and Peter Lammer met at Oxford as bright postgraduates. They hit it off and in 1985 cofounded Sophos as a computer security software company.

It was tough going at first and by 1987 they were seriously considering either moving into importing crockery from Italy or trading coal and soda ash via Russian and Chinese contacts. But they hung in there, and today Sophos is one of the world leaders in developing antivirus software. Two-thirds of FTSE-100 firms are protected by their products.

The company is growing fast on the financial front, with sales up 30% in 2002-03 to ú65 million, and profits up 24% to ú12.1 million. The crockery industry's loss is clearly the high-tech sector's gain. With a strong balance sheet and fast-growing profits, the business is worth at least ú250 million. This values the stakes of Hruska and Lammer at ú87 million apiece.

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