Economy

Charlie Mullins, a plumbing boss, talks to ME & My MONEY

Luxury: Charlie Mullins bought a £10 million penthouse in Westminster

Multi-millionaire plumber Charlie Mullins says his number one priority is to spend all his money and enjoy the best things life has to offer. Mullins founded Pimlico Plumbers in 1979 and sold the company for £145 million last year. He told Donna Ferguson that he didn’t even celebrate with a bottle of champagne the night he signed the deal because it scared him too much.

He doesn’t invest in the stock market, he prefers to put his money in bricks and mortar. Earlier this year, he bought a £10 million penthouse in Westminster and is currently building himself an eight-bedroom beachfront villa in Marbella, Spain. The 70-year-old regularly stays at the Burj Al Arab, a £5,000-a-night seven-star hotel in Dubai, with 32-year-old fiancée, singer-songwriter Raquel Reno.

He was awarded an OBE for services to the plumbing industry in 2015 and has four children with first wife Lynda.

What did your parents teach you about money?

That it was hard to gain weight and that you have to work for it. My mother was a cleaner and my father worked in a factory moving boxes. Money was tight. We often ran out of food.

By the time I was nine, I was working with my brothers cleaning cars, delivering milk, and running errands to help pay for food. There were no free school meals back then. I remember going to bed hungry.

We had an outside toilet, no bathroom. The only source of heating was a coal fire in the front room and when the coals ran out it was done. It was cold, especially at 6 in the morning when I got up to deliver milk. But many of my friends were in the same situation. For me it was just normal.

Have you ever had trouble making ends meet?

Yes. I left home at 16 and struggled until I completed my plumbing degree at 19. To pay my rent, I took a job as a cleaner on Fridays and worked in a pub cellar on weekends. I didn’t do much but work.

Have you ever been paid stupid money?

Not that I remember. But the best payday I’ve ever had was when I sold my company for £145 million. Let’s face it, I’ll never get a better one. It was also the biggest shock I’ve ever had.

For years I thought my business was worth a lot, but it felt like it happened literally overnight.

Suddenly I had £145 million in the bank. I was in shock for a few days after that. I just couldn’t believe it had happened. I celebrated it, but not with a wild party.

I was in Marbella with my partner so I took her out for dinner and told her the deal was done. We didn’t even open a bottle of champagne. It was hard to take it all in.

What was the best year of your financial life?

Last year. But before that, 2020 was my best. Trading at Pimlico Plumbers was up 15 to 20 percent during the pandemic. My plumbers were classed as key workers so we were allowed to work and we were one of the few who chose to do so.

I invested £100,000 in masks, gloves, thermometers and hand sanitizers – I actually went to town for it because it seemed so obvious that we should. We received test kits six months before the government came up with the idea. And we promoted the fact that we had security measures in place and that a customer could leave the door open and pay online by credit card – they didn’t even have to see us.

If we had had another 100 plumbers, our turnover would have probably doubled. In the end, my salary in 2020 was £6 million with dividends, which was the most money I had ever made in a year.

What’s the most expensive thing you’ve bought for fun?

It was a sequin blue Phantom Rolls-Royce for £450,000 in 2020. Every car I ever buy I paint that color – the color of the Pimlico Plumbers brand.

I already had a few Bentleys, but I bought it because I think it’s the ultimate car to buy when you’re in business.

It’s the same car that Alan Sugar and Simon Cowell have – and they can buy whatever they want.

The best money decision you’ve made?

I bought a massive 30,000 square foot warehouse in Lambeth, South West London, in 2000 for £1.7 million and turned it into my headquarters. Pimlico Plumbers was too small for such a large building at the time, employing only 50 people, but I saw the potential.

It enabled us to grow and increase our sales. By the time I sold the business, we employed 150 people and the building was worth £10 million.

Driving Force: One Of Charlie'S Bentleys, With Personalized Number Plate

Driving force: One of Charlie’s Bentleys, with personalized number plate

Are you saving for a pension or investing in the stock market?

No, I don’t. I used to save for a pension when I was 20. But I stopped when I bought my first house at 24. I then realized that retirement was meaningless to me. I don’t invest in the stock market either. I don’t know anything about it and I don’t trust anyone with my money. I listen to stockbrokers and they go on and on about investment returns – and I feel like I have no control over it.

I have put part of the £145 million into a trust for my four children and their families. I have always put all my own money into real estate.

I own three properties in Marbella, Spain: an apartment plus two villas that I will be demolishing to build one large eight-bedroom beach villa. I also own a three-bedroom penthouse apartment on the River Thames, opposite the MI6 building in London, which I bought in January for £10 million.

What is a luxury you treat yourself to?

Traveling to Dubai and staying in a 7-star hotel, the Burj Al Arab, with my fiancee. It costs between £4,000 and £5,000 per night. We probably go there five times a year. We will stay for a month at Christmas.

If you were Chancellor, what would you do first?

I would create government-funded apprenticeships and double the money apprentices receive from employers. Their wages are too low. I would also make sure that when a young person leaves school, he or she goes to a job, a university or a government-funded internship.

Do you donate money to charity?

Yes, I donate to Shooting Star Children’s Hospices. It does a great job of making children who are dying more comfortable.

What is your first financial priority?

Have a good time. It is not my family, because I have already made sure that they will be taken care of. Now my priority is to spend as much money as possible and enjoy the best things in life. I don’t want to be the richest person in the graveyard.

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Jacky

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