Four years ago, I sat on the quayside at Barcelona's yacht-cluttered port and interviewed mobile phones tycoon John Caudwell. We got on famously and later knocked back bottles of San Miguel and Rioja on his Sunseeker before I boarded an Easyjet flight back to more familiar altitudes.
Today, I am sitting across his basic mahogany-veneer desk at the Phones4U HQ, a converted mill in Stoke-on-Trent, and I am a total stranger to him. Our previous meeting is as dead in his memory as a mobile on the bed of the Med.
Nada. Well, I feel it's always important to make a big impression.
To be fair, Caudwell is generally bad on remembering faces and it's hardly surprising given the breakneck pace at which he charges through life. Since 1987, he has been frenetically building his fortune and is Britain's fastest billionaire with, apparently, £1.6 billion and the No. 29 slot on The Sunday Times Rich List. And when he's not expanding the business — currently up for sale — he cycles across countries for his children's charity.
Now 53, Caudwell has all the trimmings that come with the tycoon tag: the sprawling mansion, transport machines for all surfaces and an expectedly complicated family structure: five children with three women.
A one-time Michelin repair man, Caudwell has a tough image in the press, born from being a straighttalking and highly competitive go-getter who pushes himself and his staff to the limits. The last time we met, his powerful frame was barechested, so he clamped the vice-like crocodile clip of my mic to his right nipple. Today he is in a sober black suit and I sense he has deliberately clicked himself into a low gear for our chat — and he can barely wait to get back to full throttle.
Read the full interview with John Caudwell in this week's Press Gazette or at robmcgibbon.com.