I might be a millionaire now but life wasn’t always like that. When I was 21, I had nothing. Debt was spiralling, I was three months behind on my mortgage, and I was totally desperate. I ended up placing a £10 advert in a local paper offering to do people’s accounts. It’s the only thing I knew – I’d previously worked at an accountants for 18 months. A florist responded and I handled her accounts for £99. That gave me enough money to place another ad. From there I gained another client, then another. By 2013, when the business had 14,000 clients, I sold it to a private equity firm for £81m.
I didn’t change my life dramatically. Because of the profits over the years, at that point I already had everything I really wanted, like a nice car and houses. But it felt right. Life didn’t change from one day to the next other than that initial excitement of seeing a huge number on your bank statement. Then a week goes by and you worry about what to do with that money, which is a nice problem to have.
I received a lot of calls from investment fund managers but property felt like a safe place to spend my money. Two years ago I spent £14m on a 17,000 sq ft Balinese-inspired house in Mustique that David Bowie designed and lived in during the early 1990s. My family – my wife and two sons – and I spend about six weeks a year there and rent it out for part of the rest of the year.
We also have an apartment in Monaco, two properties in the UK and a château in south-west France. We rent our apartment in Monaco, which costs just under €1m (£890,000) a year. We left the UK because our home was broken into and Monaco is a lovely, safe and clean place to live.
I run a number of businesses including an airline based at Southend airport, a motor racing company, and Dolan Accountancy, a firm which I set up last year.
What I’ve realised over the years is that I’d rather buy things that I love, rather than just to make money. I want to buy things that I enjoy. Buying for profit seems pointless. I have two really special cars – a Koenigsegg and a Pagani Zonda. My other passion is guitars – I own about 15 in total. I’ve played since I was about 13. My prize possession is a guitar that David Bowie played during the Ziggy Stardust years. I also own a guitar Noel Gallagher played with Oasis.
We spend about £600 a month eating out at restaurants. We also have an Italian chef who travels with us and cooks pretty much whatever we like. How much do we spend on groceries? I have no idea. I don’t think I’ve physically bought anything since about 2002. Sabrina, my wife, buys me stuff and I just go online if I want anything.
When we go on city breaks we might spend £15,000 to £20,000 on first-class flights and £1,500 a night on a hotel. I don’t do it myself – I have an American Express black card and so someone at the company organises it for us. I send both my kids to private school in Monaco which costs £35,000 for them both.
I’ve learned that whatever your lifestyle – if you earn £10,000 or £1m – you end up living at that level. But I do still want value for money: I don’t just throw money away. There’s a cafe in Monaco that charges €25 for an ice cream – of course, I don’t bother going. There’s a million other places you can get one for €5.
As told to Suzanne Bearne
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010