The sales director

Flash, smart and candid, Mike Perry puts the buzz into mobile firm 2Ear plc.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

'Nice one, mate. Sweet!' How often do you hear words like these at the boardroom table? If you're a director of mobile phone business 2Ear plc, pretty much whenever Mike Perry opens his mouth. Other pearls to trip off his tongue at the last board meeting included 'neat as nuts' (describing a Japanese videophone) and 'a load of slags gagging for septic cash' (a competitor's aggressive wooing of the American equity markets).

To say that Perry is on the board but not 'on board' is to state the obvious. While other directors favour Savile Row pinstripes, Mike sports flashy Hugo Boss numbers and strident Windsor-knotted ties. They are happy with standard-issue Jags, Mercs and Beamers; Mike has just scored himself a Porsche Cayenne SUV, whose huge alloy wheels and blacked-out windows would be more at home at a Premier League training session than at 2Ear's suburban HQ. Rumours that he tried to buy the number plate 'W1 DE' for his new wagon pushed levels of Perry-worship among junior sales staff right off the end of the scale.

He supports Arsenal loudly; his interest in the arts runs from Vin Diesel to full-frontal nudity, and although he'll cheerfully dine at the Ivy when work demands, he's happier down the local battle (battle cruiser = boozer) with the sales boys, sinking a pint or six of 'European fighting lager' before heading off for a thermonuclear curry.

When people meet Mike, they tend to assume he's a barrow boy made good.

But you don't get this sort of width through an accident of birth - you have to want it. Michael Oliver Perry was born entirely against type - in rural Herefordshire to an Anglican vicar and his wife. An only child, he was studious, diligent and well-behaved, and his parents wondered if he might follow his father into the Church.

After exemplary A-levels, he went up to St John's College, Oxford. Soon, he'd gone from being a virgin to a 'slaaag', and from communion wine only to a man never without a pint of high-voltage lager. And, after two terms, from being a don of tomorrow to a dropout of today. But Perry didn't make a beeline for a squat in Camden and sign on. Good Thatcher's boy that he was, he got on his bike and founded a business selling home computers.

Trading in Apricots, Acorns and Apples didn't have the cachet of a BA (Oxon), but it paid well. Eight years later, he'd trousered close to £1 million. Half of this went into shrewd investments, the rest into flashy cars (including his first 'Porky', a Guards-red 911 Turbo), Rolexes and girls. Rich, lairy and still in his twenties, he headed to Spain to play some golf, but found it so dull he developed a couple of golf courses on the Costa instead.

Back in London 18 months later, Mike and a golf buddy in advertising set up a consultancy called, laddishly, Brand Job. It was a lot of fun for five years, but he didn't really identify with the media, so in 1995 he allowed himself to be headhunted to a fast-growing 'real business', one that sold ... organic food.

Mike's time at Gaia's Garden was not happy. A man whose idea of perfection is a Ferrari Testarossa loaded with Rachel Hunter and a golf bag was never going to get on in a company that had given Mother Earth a symbolic golden share. Perry parted with GG after three years, his only legacy a line of super-strength organic lagers. Mobile phones were taking off in a big way, so he joined 2Ear, a business where, for a healthy equity stake, he felt he could make a difference. He has.

So how do more run-of-the-mill directors deal with this lemon squeezer (= geezer) in their midst? Pretty well. For starters, 'large' as he is, Mike's entertaining presence livens up every corporate occasion, whether it's explaining sales strategy in terms of the Gunners' last game at board meetings or dancing drunk on tables at the Christmas party.

He's also bloody good at his job: on his watch, 2Ear has gone from a poor fourth in the mobile market to a hot tip for top spot. Sure, it has been a team effort, but to use a Perryesque analogy, he is the Thierry Henry. Plus, he enjoys terrific loyalty among the sales staff. It would be churlish to carp about his playing ear-splitting Snoop Dogg as he peels out of his director's parking slot.

Indeed, the worst charge anyone levels at him is that it's all an act.

But everyone from his (astoundingly posh) wife to 2Ear's widest salesboy will tell you that he's the real deal. Cut him and he bleeds pure Stella.

And this, perhaps, is the key to his success. With his bling lifestyle - Surrey McMansion, Costa apartments, high-end SUVs and chunky jewellery - it's hardly surprising that Mike Perry understands his customers. He is, after all, what most of them would like to be.


1960: Born Herefordshire, educated Hereford Boys School, St John's

College, Oxford. Sent down after two terms.

1980: Founds Oak Tree Computers

1988: Sells Oak Tree Computers

1989: Property developer, Costa del Sol

1990: Partner, Brand Job Consulting

1995: Marketing director, Gaia's Garden

1998: Sales director, 2Ear plc

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