Luxury: Charlie Mullins has bought a £10million penthouse in Westminster
Multi-millionaire plumber Charlie Mullins says his main priority is to spend all his money, enjoying the best things life has to offer. Mullins founded Pimlico Plumbers in 1979 and sold the business last year for £145m. He told Donna Ferguson that he didn’t even celebrate with a bottle of champagne the night he signed the deal because he was so shocked about it.
He does not invest in the stock market, preferring to put his money in bricks and mortar. Earlier this year he bought a £10million penthouse in Westminster and is currently building an eight-bedroom villa near the beach 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 his 32-year-old fiancée, singer-songwriter Raquel Reno.
He received an OBE in 2015 for his services to the plumbing industry and has four children with his first wife Lynda.
What did your parents teach you about money?
That it was hard to find and you had to work for it. My mother was a cleaning lady and my father worked in a cardboard moving factory. Money was tight. Often we ran out of food.
When 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 outhouse, no bathroom. The only source of heat 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 6am when I got up to deliver milk. But a lot of my friends were in the same situation. For me, it was just normal.
Have you ever struggled to make ends meet?
Yes. I left home at 16 and struggled until I finished my plumbing apprenticeship at 19. To pay my rent, I took an all-night cleaning job on Fridays and worked in a pub cellar on the weekends. I didn’t do much other than work.
Have you ever been paid stupid money?
Not that I remember. But the best payday I ever had was when I sold my business for £145million. Let’s face it, I’ll never have a better one. It was also the biggest shock I have ever had.
For years I thought my business was worth a lot, but it felt like it was done literally overnight.
All of a sudden I had £145million in the bank. I was in shock for a few days afterwards. I just 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 to dinner 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 of your financial life?
Last year. But before that, 2020 was my best. Trading at Pimlico Plumbers has increased by 15-20% during the pandemic. My 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 sanitiser – I really went to town because it seemed so obvious we had to. We received test kits six months before the government had the idea. And we promoted the fact that we took security measures and that a customer could leave the door open and pay by credit card online – they didn’t even have to see us.
If we had had 100 more plumbers, our business would probably have doubled. In the end, my salary in 2020 was £6m with dividends, which was the most money I’ve ever earned in a year.
What’s the most expensive thing you’ve bought for fun?
It was a blue glitter Rolls-Royce Phantom for £450,000 in 2020. Every car I buy I spray it with this color – the Pimlico Plumbers brand colour.
I already had a few Bentleys, but bought it because I think it’s the ultimate car to buy if you’re in business.
It’s the same car as Alan Sugar and Simon Cowell, and they can buy whatever they want.
What’s the best financial decision you’ve made?
Buying a massive 30,000 square foot warehouse in Lambeth, South West London for £1.7m in 2000 and making it my headquarters. Pimlico Plumbers was too small for such a large building at the time, employing only 50 people, but I could see the potential.
This has allowed us to grow and increase our turnover. At the time I sold the business we employed 150 people and the building was worth £10m.
Driving force: One of Charlie’s Bentleys, with personalized license plate
Are you saving for a pension or investing in the stock market?
No I do not know. I used to save for a pension when I was 20. But I stopped when I bought my first house at 24. I realized then that for me a pension was useless. I don’t invest in the stock market either. I don’t know and I don’t trust anyone with my money. I listen to stockbrokers and they talk about returns on investment – and I feel like it’s out of my control.
I have placed part of the £145million in a trust for my four children and their families. All the money I have myself, I’ve always put into property.
I have three properties in Marbella, Spain: an apartment and two villas which I am in the process of demolishing to build a large eight bedroom beachfront villa. I also have a three bedroom penthouse apartment on the River Thames, opposite the MI6 building in London, which I bought in January for £10m.
What luxury do you give yourself?
Traveling to Dubai and staying in a seven star hotel, the Burj Al Arab, with my fiancée. It costs between £4,000 and £5,000 a night. We go there probably five times a year. At Christmas, we stay for a month.
If you were Chancellor, what is the first thing you would do?
I would create government-funded apprenticeships and double the money apprentices receive from employers. Their pay is too low. I would also 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 charity?
Yes, I donate to Shooting Star Children’s Hospices. He does an amazing job of making dying children more comfortable.
What is your number one financial priority?
To have a good time. They’re not my family because I’ve already made sure they’re taken care of. Now my priority is to spend as much money as possible, enjoying the finer things in life. I don’t want to be the richest person in the cemetery.
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