As I’m sure you’ve noticed, a talent for making money rarely goes hand in hand with a talent for spending it, or even enjoying it. “It’s nice, but I’m no happier being a billionaire,” Chris Dawson told the Mail last week.
In The Times the man who’s made his £1.28 billion through The Range, his chain of home and garden discount stores, told Damian Whitworth that it’s “not really about the money. It’s about the deals.” I believe him. At 62, he’s still obsessed with growing his business; splashing out on luxuries is of little interest.
“I have got odd patio furniture at home,” he says. “People come round for a drink and say, ‘Chris, none of this matches.’ I am not wasting money. These are odds and sods that didn’t sell.”
Even the Rolls-Royce Wraith he bought he treats as a kind of joke. He chuckles, says Whitworth, as he shows how the doors can be closed by pressing a button. “How bling is that?” Inside, tiny stars stud the roof.
The numberplate, reflecting his favourite TV programme, reads: DEIIBOY. “Probably the most famous numberplate in the UK. It’s not an arrogant plate, it’s hilarious. You watch how many people want to photograph it.”
In the Mail, another rich-list fixture, Paul Sykes, talked to Jane Fryer. At 70, says Fryer, he’s “very small, very neat” and “extremely frugal”. The Ukip backer and friend of Nigel Farage began as a tyre-fitter aged 15, before branching out into second-hand buses and lorries, stripping themdown and exporting them to the Far East. Then came shopping centres and the internet provider Planet Online.
But though passionate about Britain, he seems even less interested in spending money than Dawson. “I’ve created more than 140,000 jobs and paid £400m in taxes – and all in this country – thank you very much,” he says. So what about the jets, the “bikini-clad babes” and the gold-plated taps, asks Fryer.
“I went through a brief phase in my late 30s and 40s when I owned a lot of things – boats and planes and trains. But there were no parties or high dining. I can’t deal with it – it’s just boring.” Now he’s “got nothing. I haven’t been shopping for years. I’ve got a complete hatred of all consumption.”
He lives, says Fryer, in “an extended cottage” in Yorkshire, where he’s careful to turn off unneeded lights and to put on extra jerseys to save energy, and thinks back nostalgically to his father’s life. “He looked after his tomato plants in the greenhouse, he was a verger at the church and he went down pit. That’s all he did… He found peace in simple things.”
If Sykes could give all his wealth back, he says, he would. “Oh yes. I do wish it had never happened. It never fitted my life. I should have stayed at the tyre service. I was doing very well.”
He remembers seeing a small house in Barnsley and thinking if he could rise to managing the tyre service, he could have a house like that. “But like a mug I started on the journey. I wish I hadn’t. I really wish I hadn’t.” The rich are different, said Scott Fitzgerald. They’re certainly odd.
Tabloid money: Let Gary Barlow off or he’ll take to the road
• “Gary Barlow (whoever he is) and the rest of Take That (whatever that is) face a multimillion-pound demand from the Inland Revenue after a judge ruled that their ‘music investment’ scheme was just another tax avoidance scam,” says Paul Routledge in the Mirror. “By all means go after Gazza, but what about the real tax avoiders such as Amazon? Corporate avoidance costs the UK gazillions every year, but the taxman prefers to negotiate cosy deals rather than put company bosses in the dock. Blubbering Barlow might have to take to the road with his whining music to pay his tax bill, it is reported. Oh no! Let him off!”
• Shortly before the last election, David Cameron made a pledge, says Rod Liddle in The Sun. “He put that incredibly sincere and grave expression on his shiny face” and said he’d cut the number of immigrants to this country by 100,000 per year. But in fact the number of people “flooding into the country”has increased: this year we have had a net gain of “a staggering 212,000” arriving, mainly from eastern Europe.
But here’s the problem for voters. “The Tories like immigration because it means a short-term boost for the economy and employers can pay their workers rather less money… And Labour and the Lib Dems like immigration because they still seem to think that anyone who moans about it is a raaacccissst. Even Ukip doesn’t seem to mind having quite a few immigrants arriving every month… So on this issue… the message from the parties is pretty much unanimous: Get stuffed.”
• “As part of his punishment for tax fraud, former Italian president Silvio Berlusconi has started community service at an old people’s home,” says Jane Moore in the Sun. “One of his tasks is to entertain residents, so what’s the betting that the old ducks will soon be showing a remarkable joie de vivre? ‘Tonight, laydeez and gentlemen, eez no bingo. It’s bunga bunga time!’”