Home Money I’m almost 90 years old, worth over £200 million and still starting new businesses. Here’s how I did it and my eight tips to get rich

I’m almost 90 years old, worth over £200 million and still starting new businesses. Here’s how I did it and my eight tips to get rich

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Tony Bramall is the main sponsor of Drive Fuze, a digital company that launched last year. Expected to revolutionize car ownership

Tony Bramall is an unlikely ‘tech bro’, especially as he is almost 90 years old. Having made his fortune not once but twice in a career spanning seven decades, the car dealer could be forgiven if he walked off into the sunset.

At least in theory, he’s retired, but the energetic octogenarian remains a serial investor who shows no signs of taking his foot off the gas. Quite the opposite.

He may be decades older than your typical hoodie-wearing geek tech entrepreneur, but in his latest venture, Bramall is the lead backer of a digital startup he hopes will revolutionize car ownership.

Tony Bramall is the main sponsor of Drive Fuze, a digital company that launched last year. Expected to revolutionize car ownership

Launched last year, Drive Fuze offers an all-inclusive online car subscription service, which it says is better value and more flexible than buying an engine or signing a personal lease.

As it stands, it could well add millions more to the no-nonsense Yorkshireman’s already large fortune. Bramall, 88, is a quintessential role model for so-called silver entrepreneurs who aspire to business success in the future.

“Most people in their 60s and 70s still have a lot of experience to contribute,” says Bramall. She made £80million two years ago from his stake in car dealership Lookers. Proof that it’s never too late to make (or increase) your fortune.

However, theirs is not a get-rich-quick story. It has taken decades of hard work and now it is still working hard.

“I was raised by a father who instilled a very strong work ethic in me from a very young age,” he recalls. ‘I can’t overstate the impact it had on my attitude.

“You have to have a reason to get up in the morning and a routine once the day starts.”

Francesca, his wife of 30 years, wakes him up at 6 a.m. and he is usually at his desk by 8:30 a.m. ‘I go to work every day. Well, I’m going to an office, put it like that. Whether it is work or not, that is for others to judge,” he jokes.

A qualified accountant, he worked in the family car dealership business in the 1960s. He set about expanding it, buying smaller rivals and taking the renowned CD Bramall public on the stock market in 1978. He sold himself to the international Avis car rental a decade later for £94 million.

Bramall, then a lad of 52, was just getting started.

He used some of the profits to buy a textile company in Bradford. He then turned it into a very profitable car dealership and revived the CD Bramall name.

He took CD Bramall mark two to the stock market before it was bought by larger rival Pendragon for £230 million in 2004.

Creating two publicly traded companies and profiting from both would be more than enough for most entrepreneurs. But Bramall, now 68, was far from finished.

He emerged in 2006 as the “white knight” of another dealership, Lookers, which was facing a hostile takeover bid by Pendragon. Bramall got a big share and scuttled the deal. He remained on Lookers’ board until 2020, before cashing out in 2022 to Constellation Automotive, the owner of online platforms WeBuyAnyCar and Cinch.

Today he is estimated to be worth more than £200 million, much of which was earned after reaching retirement age.

And it’s not over yet.

Their latest project, Drive Fuze, aims to cater to those households that need their own car, but are not willing to commit to a certain model long-term. He gives the example of a couple who wants to test an electric car before buying it.

Or a young family, who might need to downsize and get a larger vehicle if more children arrive. Personal contract purchase finance (PCP) accounts for more than 80 per cent of new private car finance deals, but drivers are locked into contracts of up to four years.

Bramall is convinced that the subscription service will win over customers, especially millennials, saying: “People my age like to take a car, drive it and own it, but there is a tendency to use a car in rather than owning it, especially among the younger ones.’

There are no hidden extras with a subscription – the vehicle is even delivered to your door and picked up just in case.

The subscription market is in its infancy, but is expected to grow rapidly. The important thing Bramall has learned over the years is not to be blinded by the pound signs.

“There’s a big market out there, we just want a small part of it,” says Bramall. ‘You have to be humble. Investing too much in your idea is the easiest thing to do. Instead, you should scale as you grow.”

The technology behind a car subscription service may be new to him, but few can match Bramall’s knowledge and experience in the automotive sector. He has used his contacts to build a strong management team at Drive Fuze, where he insists that he is “a passive investor.”

Tony Bramall with Nick Rothwell of Drive Fuze. Nick used to run Ford's auto finance operations in Europe.

Tony Bramall with Nick Rothwell of Drive Fuze. Nick used to run Ford’s auto finance operations in Europe.

“Let’s support people, not just companies,” he advises. “As an investor, you need to understand people’s character and motivations, not just their vision and ambition.”

He’s made sure the best team in his latest adventure has what he calls “skin in the game.”

“Success is more likely when the people running the business have both to gain and lose,” he says. Drive Fuze is run by Nick Rothwell, who used to run Ford’s auto finance operations in Europe.

Rothwell recently sold a similar car subscription business in Spain for £90m to Renault’s financial services division.

Also on the board is his long-time business partner, Peter Jones, former chief executive of Lookers. The closest Bramall came to retiring was when he met Jones at an auto show in 1995 and asked him if he wanted to run his company.

“Next year I’ll be 60 years old and I’m not going to die with my boots on,” Bramall told him.

Loyalty and trust clearly matter to him. His number one business lesson is: “Keep your word, it will pay big dividends.”

His favorite film is The Godfather, the story of an elderly patriarch who hands over his clandestine empire to a reluctant son.

However, where does it get its energy from?

“You have to enjoy what you do, otherwise there’s no point; that’s where the energy and enthusiasm comes from,” he says.

“I look forward to every day.”

He lists his skills as “rapid growth, finance, management and negotiation.” Bramall, an avid lifelong Sheffield United fan, still chairs a family property and investment business based in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, where his two daughters are also directors.

He also oversees a charitable foundation that has supported various good causes over the past three decades.

Providing for his eight grandchildren, ranging in age from six to 32, is also “a big goal” for him.

Bramall is clearly excited about Drive Fuze’s prospects and sees enormous potential in licensing its proprietary technology to third parties. The company, he says, can grow slowly, as most startups do. “But I am convinced that I have made a decision that I will not regret,” he says. ‘Time will tell.’

With his track record, few would bet against him making a few more million before he turns 90.

money" data-version="2" id="mol-934a1ed0-2b49-11ef-a039-3b4074bf0ac0" data-permabox-url="https://www.dailymail.co.uk/money/mailplus/article-13534063/nearly-90-worth-million-starting-new-businesses-tips-getting-rich.html"> TONY’S TIPS TO GET RICH
  • Keep your word – it will pay big dividends
  • Support people, not just companies: understand people’s character and motivations, their vision and ambition.
  • Be humble: investing too much in an idea is the easiest thing to do
  • Scale as you grow: Don’t try to do everything at once
  • Get in the game: Success is more likely when the people running the business have a vested interest.
  • Move with the times: put yourself in the customer’s shoes
  • Don’t let emotions or feelings get in the way of tough business decisions.
  • Be realistic: growing a business takes time, don’t rush and don’t be greedy

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