Posted on June 10, 2016 by staff

Mobile phone billionaires lead UK Tech Rich List


The time has come to reveal the top 20 British tech entrepreneurs and business leaders – with John Caudwell, the founder of Phones4U, in No1 spot.

All week BusinessCloud has counted down its inaugural top 100 Tech Rich List – and here is the final instalment.

The most wealthy tech Brit is Caudwell, who netted £1.24billion when he sold Phones4U in 2006 and is worth a mammoth £1.5bn.

The mobile revolution also made Sir Charles Dunstone, who founded Carphone Warehouse, a very rich man. He comes in at number two with £1.3bn.

The other UK tech billionaire is Sir Terry Matthews, a telecom entrepreneur who went on to build the Celtic Manor golf course – of Ryder Cup fame – and is now a prominent venture capitalist investing in tech businesses.

In all, the sector’s top 100 entrepreneurs and business owners are now worth £19.655bn. Scroll down to see who else made the list.

It has been compiled by Philip Beresford, who also produces the annual Sunday Times Rich List.

The first part of the UK Tech Rich List covered numbers 81-100 and featured many stars of the software world.

The second part, counting from 61-80, boasted the founders of British unicorn Skyscanner and video game legends Rareware.

In part 3 – numbers 41-60 – there was Demis Hassabis, the prodigal genius behind Google’s DeepMind artificial intelligence operation, and Sam Houser, the man behind the phenomenally popular Grand Theft Auto series.

And part 4 included Sir Jonathan Ive, Apple’s Chief Design Officer – the man responsible for iconic gadgets the iPod, iPhone and iPad.

1. John Caudwell – Ex-Phones4U, £1.5bn
Date of Birth: 07/10/1952

A former engineering apprentice, later car dealer, John Caudwell joined the fledgling mobile phone industry in 1987 and never looked back. He netted £1.24bn when he sold his Potteries-based retailer in 2006. He made another £100m when the company, trading as Phones4U, was sold again in 2011. He had previously sold off his Singlepoint customer billing operation to Vodafone for £405m. Property development has now become Caudwell’s main business interest.

2. Sir Charles Dunstone – TalkTalk & Dixons Carphone, £1.3bn 
DoB: 21/11/1964

Sir Charles Dunstone founded Carphone Warehouse from a Marylebone flat with £6,000 savings. Over the next quarter of a century few people have been more instrumental in making mobile phones and tablet computers ubiquitous in modern life. The keen sailor’s stake in Dixons Carphone, created by a merger with Dixons Retail, is worth £640m. The group is now Britain’s No1 high street electricals retailer. In recent years he has diversified into restaurants and property, with investments including the online estate agent HouseSimple.

3. Sir Terry Matthews – Ex-Newbridge Networks, £1bn
DoB: 06/06/1943

Telecom entrepreneur Sir Terry Matthews’ appointment as chairman of the Swansea Bay City region in 2014 has been hailed as an inspired move. Swansea will be hoping that some of the magic that Matthews (a 1969 electronics graduate from Swansea University) has shown in building the Celtic Manor golf resort outside Newport will rub off. After university in Wales, Matthews went to Canada and made his fortune, first with a telecom company called Mitel, later sold to British Telecom, and then more significantly with Newbridge Networks, which Matthews sold in 2000 for £4.4bn, collecting £1bn for his stake. Today Matthews moves easily between Canada and Wales. He is the founder and main investor in Celtic House International, a venture capital group investing in high-tech start-ups.

4. David Ross – TalkTalk & Dixons Carphone, £923m
DoB: 10/07/1965

David Ross was educated at Uppingham School where he became friends with Charles (now Sir Charles) Dunstone. From a wealthy fishing family in Grimsby, he graduated with a BA degree in law from the University of Nottingham. Dunstone launched the Carphone Warehouse mobile phone chain in 1989 and Ross joined him two years later as finance director. He later became chief operating officer. Carphone Warehouse floated on the stock market in 2000, demerged its TalkTalk telecoms and broadband operation in 2010 and finally merged with Dixons to form Dixons Carphone in 2014. Other assets include a £105m property portfolio. Private equity gains take Ross above £900m.

5= Mike Cannon-Brookes – Atlassian, £906m 
DoB: 17/11/1979

Mike Cannon-Brookes, 36, is the co-founder of Australian software company Atlassian, with business partner Scott Farquhar. They met at university and founded the business in 2002 using a $10,000 loan. The pair moved their base to London as fast-growing Atlassian, with 35,000 customers using its project and workflow management software, recently floated on the Nasdaq exchange in New York. It is now valued at £3.9bn.

5=. Scott Farquhar – Atlassian, £906m 
DoB: 17/12/1979

Scott Farquhar and his business partner Mike Cannon-Brookes (q.v.) met while studying at the University of New South Wales and began their software company Atlassian in 2002, financing it on a credit card. Their project-and workflow-management software is now used by heavyweights like Facebook, Cisco and Citigroup.

7. Niklas Zennstrom – Skype & Atomico, £800m
DoB: 16/02/1966

A competitive and successful sailor, Swedish entrepreneur Niklas Zennstrom is best known as the founder of Skype. Two share sales in 2005 and 2010 provided hefty windfalls and his wealth is now valued by Swedish rich list Veckans Affärer at £800m. He studied engineering and computer science at university, started file sharing service Kazaa in 1999 and sold it three years later. London-based Zennstrom now divides his time between his venture capital firm Atomico, which raised $476.6m for its third fund, and leading European Tech Alliance, a group of fast-growing IT companies seeking to accelerate the development of the continent’s digital economy.

8. Dr. Mo Ibrahim – Ex-Celpay & MSI, £727m
DoB: 03/05/1946

Armed with an engineering degree, Dr Mo Ibrahim left Sudan to study mobile communications in Britain. He joined BT in 1983 and six years later led a group of managers who invested £100,000 to start Mobile Systems International, a consulting operation. ISI was sold in 2000 for $916m. A separate African mobile venture had been demerged in 1998. Ibrahim stayed with what became Celtel, which was sold in 2005 for $3.4 billion. Ibrahim, a British citizen and based in London, and his family made £480m from the sale. He put £100m into a private equity fund to promote business in Africa and £57m into a charitable trust he created to help moves towards good African governance.

9. Sir Peter Rigby – Specialist Computer Holdings, £550m
DoB:  29/09/1943

The Rigby Group, parent to Birmingham-based Specialist Computers, is now heavily involved in aviation and hotels too. Profits came in at £15.8m on £1.627bn sales in 2014-15 when it showed £247m net assets. Sir Peter Rigby, who had planned to become an RAF fighter pilot, went into computers in 1960 and launched Specialist Computers in the early 1970s with his savings. His family stake is worth perhaps £500m. Past dividends, salaries and his other interests should add around £50m.

10. Mel Morris – King Digital, £500m
DoB: 16/02/1956

The purchase of King Digital Entertainment by US games maker Activision Blizzard last year secured a payday of around £450m for Mel Morris, a former flooring salesman from Derby. He has previously earned at least £30m from the sales of internet security and online dating businesses. However, the purchase of the maker of Candy Crush – a game that been downloaded more than 500m times – will value Morris’ stake at around 20 per cent more than what it was worth a year ago. He is a lifelong Derby County fan and took full control last September and became chairman of the Rams.

11. Dr. Mike Lynch – Blinkx & ex-Autonomy Corporation, £470m
DoB: 06/06/1965

An Irish-born Cambridge graduate who grew up in London’s East End, Dr Mike Lynch made his fortune through the Autonomy software operation which he sold in 2011 for £6.5 bn. He also has a £3m stake in Blinkx, a quoted video hosting service.

12. Peter Wilkinson – Mobile Tornado & ex-Intechnology, £385m
DoB: 21/05/1954

Peter Wilkinson, a Harrogate-based technology tycoon, sold his Intechnology operation in a reverse takeover for £65m in November 2013. Earlier sales included £67.6m from the Freeserve and Planet Online internet operations. He kept Planet Online’s football internet sites, selling these in 2000 to BSkyB for shares worth over £89m. In 2013 too Wilkinson paid £6.7m for the assets of a failed Israeli communications firm. He is using its technology to offer free wi-fi services across the northern towns and cities through his Mobile Tornado operation.

13. Riccardo Zacconi – King Digital, £384m
DoB: 11/05/1967

Italian-born Riccardo Zacconi co-founded King Digital, the London-based company behind the Candy Crush Saga mobile game in 2003. Last year’s acquisition of the games creator by the US giant Activision Blizzard valued his stake at around £376m. Previous share sales take him to £384m.

14. Michael and Xochi Birch – Bebo, £375m 
DoB: 07/07/1970 & 11/01/1972

Hertfordshire-born internet entrepreneur Michael Birch and his wife Xochi started the Bebo social networking site in 2005. Three years later they sold it to AOL for £510m, netting around £357m for their 70 per cent stake. They bought back Bebo for around £600,000 in July 2013, just five years after selling it. The Birchs, an Anglo-American couple, have invested in about 50 companies and charities, and have even built a pub – ‘the original social network’, says Birch – in their San Francisco home serving London Pride and Guinness.

15. Sir Peter Ogden – Computacenter, £370m
DoB: 26/05/1947

Born and brought up in Rochdale, Sir Peter Ogden went to the then local grammar school. After university and a career in finance, he co-founded the computer group Computacenter in 1981. It floated on the stock market in 1998 and Ogden’s stake is now worth £239m, including those in trust. Ogden also had a £100m stake in Dealogic, a software company recently taken over in a £438m deal. He gave £25m to fund bright students from poor backgrounds at some of the leading independent schools.

16. Lawrence Jones MBE & family – UKFast, £275m
DoB: 01/08/1968

Lawrence Jones started internet hosting company UKFast in 1999 with his wife Gail. The fast-growing Manchester-based operation has won numerous industry awards and in 2014 saw its profits soar to £9.4m on £28.9m sales. Jones and his family own it all. He turned down a £200m takeover approach in June 2014. With other assets, including a Swiss hotel, Jones is easily worth £275m.

17. Peter Kelly – Softcat, £262m 
DoB: 25/07/1957

Marlow-based Softcat was founded in 1993 by Peter Kelly as a mail order software company aimed at the B2B market. The stock market float last November valued the firm at £472m. Kelly sold stock worth £80m and retains shares worth £219m.

18=. Dr Jan Hruska – Sophos, £250m 
DoB: 21/10/1960

Sophos, the IT security consultancy, was worth £550m when a private equity group took a stake in 2010. It was co-founded in 1985 by Oxford postgraduates Hruska and Peter Lammer (q.v.) who made $300m between them from that deal. Sophos floated on the stock market in 2015 and is now valued at £1.14bn. Hruska still has 42.5m shares now worth £107.5m.

18=. Dr Peter Lammer – Sophos, £250m 

Dr Peter Lammer co-founded Sophos, the IT security consultancy in 1985 with Dr Jan Hruska.

20. Rory Sweet – Zycko & ex-Messagelabs, £220m
DoB: 19/02/1967

A polo-playing computer entrepreneur and polar explorer, Rory Sweet sold stakes in two software operations in 2008 and 2011, netting well over £220m. With remaining stakes and assets, Cotswolds-based Sweet should be worth that sum, allowing for tax. Last year he spent £38,000 on a Soviet Kholod space rocket as a garden ornament.