Luxury: Charlie Mullins 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 that life can offer. Mullins founded Pimlico Plumbers in 1979 and sold the company last year for £145million. He told Donna Ferguson he didn’t even celebrate with a bottle of champagne the night he signed the deal, because he was in too much shock about it.
He doesn’t 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 himself an eight-bedroom villa by the beach in Marbella, Spain. The 70-year-old regularly stays in the Burj Al Arab, a seven-star, £5,000-a-night hotel in Dubai, with 32-year-old fiancee, singer-songwriter Raquel Reno.
He was given an OBE in 2015 for services to the plumbing industry and has four children with first wife Lynda.
What did your parents teach you about money?
That it was hard to come by and you have to work for it. My mum was a cleaner and my father worked in a factory moving boxes around. Money was tight. Often, we would go short of food.
By the time I was nine, I would work with my brothers cleaning cars, delivering milk and running errands to help pay for food. There were no free school meals 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 coal ran out, that was it. It was cold, especially in the mornings at 6am when I’d get up to deliver milk. But lots of my mates were in the same situation. To 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 age 19. To pay my rent, I took a job cleaning all night on Fridays and worked in a pub cellar at weekends. I didn’t do much else except work.
Have you ever been paid silly money?
Not that I recall. But the best payday I ever had was when I sold my business for £145million. Let’s face it, I’m never going to get a better one. It was also the biggest shock I’ve ever had.
For years, I thought my company was worth a lot, but it felt like it happened 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 had 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 had been completed. 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 prior to that, 2020 was my best. Trading at Pimlico Plumbers increased by between 15 and 20 per cent during the pandemic. My plumbers were classed 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 sanitisers – I really went to town on it because it seemed so obvious we had to do that. We got testing 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 leave the door open and pay by credit card online – they didn’t even have to see us.
If we’d had another 100 plumbers, our turnover would probably have doubled. In the end, my wages in 2020 were £6million with dividends, which was the most money I had ever earned in a year.
What is the most expensive thing you bought for fun?
It was a sequin blue Phantom Rolls-Royce for £450,000 in 2020. Every car I ever buy, I spray it that colour – the colour of the Pimlico Plumbers brand.
I already had a couple of Bentleys, but I bought it because I think it is the ultimate car to buy if you are in business.
It’s the same car Alan Sugar and Simon Cowell have – and they can buy whatever they want.
The best money decision you have made?
Buying a huge, 30,000 sq ft warehouse in Lambeth, South-West London, for £1.7million in 2000 and turning it into my headquarters. Pimlico Plumbers was too small for such a large building at the time, employing just 50 people, but I could see the potential.
It 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 £10million.
Driving force: One of Charlie’s Bentleys, with personalised number plate
Do you save into a pension or invest in the stock market?
No, I don’t. I used to save into a pension when I was 20. But I stopped when I bought my first house at 24. I realised then that for me a pension was pointless. I don’t invest in the stock market either. I don’t know anything about it and I just don’t trust anybody with my money. I listen to stockbrokers and they go on about investment returns – and I feel it’s out of my control.
I’ve put some of the £145million in a trust for my four children and their families. Any money of my own I have always put in property.
I have three properties in Marbella, Spain: an apartment plus two villas that I’m knocking down to build one big, eight-bedroom beachside villa. I also have a three-bedroom penthouse apartment on the River Thames, opposite the MI6 building in London, which I purchased in January for £10million.
What is one luxury you treat yourself to?
Travelling to Dubai and staying in a seven-star hotel, the Burj Al Arab, with my fiancee. It costs between £4,000 and £5,000 a night. We probably go there five times a year. At Christmas, we stay for a month.
If you were Chancellor, what is the first thing you would do?
I’d create Government-funded apprenticeships and double the money that apprentices get from employers. Their pay is too low. I would also make sure that when a youngster leaves school, they go to a job, a university or a Government-funded apprenticeship.
Do you donate money to charity?
Yes, I donate to Shooting Star Children’s Hospices. It does amazing work making children who are dying more comfortable.
What is your number one financial priority?
To have a good time. It’s not my family because I have already made sure they will be looked after. Now, my priority is to spend as much money as I can, enjoying the best things in life. I don’t want to be the richest person in the graveyard.