Luxury: Charlie Mullins bought a £10 million penthouse in Westminster
Millionaire plumber Charlie Mullins says his main priority is spending all his money, enjoying the best things life has to offer. Mullins founded Pimlico Plumbers in 1979 and sold the company last year for £145m. Donna tells Ferguson that he didn’t celebrate with a bottle of champagne the night he signed the deal, because he was in so much shock about it.
He does not invest in the stock market, preferring to put his money into bricks and mortar. Earlier this year, he bought a £10 million penthouse in Westminster and is currently building an eight-bedroom villa on the beach in Marbella, Spain. The 70-year-old regularly stays at the Burj Al Arab, a seven-star hotel, at a cost of £5,000 a night, with his 32-year-old fiancée, singer-songwriter Raquel Renault.
He was awarded an OBE in 2015 for services to the plumbing industry and has four children with his first wife, Linda.
What did your parents teach you about money?
It was hard to get and you have to work for it. My mother was a cleaner and my father worked in a box-moving factory. Money was tight. Often times, we lack food.
When I was nine, I worked with my brothers cleaning cars, delivering milk, and running errands to help pay for food. There were no free school meals at that time. 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 coal ran out, that was it. It was cold, especially in the morning at 6 am when I get up to deliver my milk. But many of my classmates were in the same situation. For me, it was normal.
Have you ever struggled to make ends meet?
yes. I left home at 16 and struggled to finish my plumbing apprenticeship at 19. To pay the rent, I cleaned all nights on Fridays and worked in the basement of a tavern on weekends. I didn’t do much except work.
Have you ever paid ridiculous money?
I do not remember. But my best paying day ever was when I sold my business for £145m. Let’s face it, I’ll never get a better one. It was also the biggest shock I have ever faced.
For years, I thought my company was worth a lot, but it felt like it happened overnight.
Suddenly, I had £145m in the bank. I was in shock for a few days after that. I couldn’t believe it happened. I celebrated, but not with a wild party.
I was in Marbella with my partner, so I took her out for a meal and told her the deal was done. We haven’t even opened a bottle of champagne. It was hard to take it all in.
What was the best year in your financial life?
last year. But before that, 2020 was my best year. Trade in Pimlico Plumbers increased between 15 and 20 percent during the pandemic. Plumbers were classified as key workers, so we were allowed to work and we were among the few who chose to do so.
I invested £100,000 in masks, gloves, thermometers and hand sanitizers – I really went to town because it seemed so obvious we had to do it. We got test kits six months before the government came up with the idea. And we promoted the fact that we were taking safety precautions and a customer could just leave the door open and pay with a credit card online – they didn’t even have to see us.
If we had 100 more plumbers, our turnover would probably have doubled. In the end, my salary in 2020 was £6m with dividends, the most I’ve earned in a year.
What is the most expensive thing you ever bought for fun?
It was a blue sequined Rolls-Royce Phantom for £450,000 in 2020. Every car I ever buy, I spray it this color – a Pimlico Plumbers color.
I already had a couple of Bentleys, but I bought them because I think it’s the perfect car to buy if you’re in business.
It’s the same car that Alan Sugar and Simon Cowell have – and they can buy whatever they want.
Best financial decision you’ve made?
Bought a huge 30,000 sq ft warehouse in Lambeth, South West London, for £1.7m in 2000 and turned it into my HQ. Pimlico Plumbers was too small for such a large building at the time, employing only 50 people, but I could see the potential.
It has allowed us to grow and increase our turnover. By the time I sold the business we were employing 150 people and the building was worth £10m.
Driving Force: One of Charlie’s Bentleys, with a custom number plate
Do you save for a pension or invest in the stock market?
no i don’t. I was saving for a pension when I was 20 years old. But I stopped when I bought my first home at 24. It was then that I realized that for me a pension had no meaning. I don’t invest in the stock market either. I don’t know anything about it and don’t trust anyone with my money. I listen to stockbrokers track investment returns – and I feel like they’re out of my control.
I have put some of that £145m into a trust fund for my four children and their families. Any money of mine I always put into the property.
I have three properties in Marbella, Spain: an apartment plus two villas that I’m demolishing to build a large eight bedroom beachfront villa. I also have a three-bedroom penthouse on the Thames, opposite the MI6 building in London, which I bought in January for £10m.
What luxury do you pamper yourself with?
Traveling to Dubai and staying at the seven-star Burj Al Arab hotel with my fiancée. It costs between £4,000 and £5,000 per night. We probably go there five times a year. At Christmas we stay for a month.
If you were a counselor, what would be the first thing you would do?
I was creating government-funded apprenticeship programs and doubling the money apprentices were getting from employers. Their salaries are very low. I would also like to make sure that when a young person leaves school, they go on to a government-funded job, university or apprenticeship.
Do you donate money to charities?
Yes, I donate to Shooting Star child care centers. She does a great job making dying babies more comfortable.
What is your number one financial priority?
to have a good time. It’s not my family because I’m already sure they’ll be taken care of. Right now, my priority is to spend as much money as possible, and enjoy the finer things in life. I don’t want to be the richest person in the cemetery.
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