Derek Hatton: The militant lefty who made a million

Derek Hatton put aside his political battles and leapt at the chance to make a fortune from designing websites.

In June 1986, Derek Hatton, then an MP famous for his battles with Margaret Thatcher and even his own party leader, Neil Kinnock, was expelled from the Labour Party and decided to leave politics. His fame landed him some well-paid radio gigs on Talk Radio, some stints as a TV presenter and male model, and he also did some public relations work. "I was earning good money. In those days the radio shows were paying around £200,000 a year." But in 1999, Degsy' had his biggest career change.

"My son, Ben, had just come back from university in America and really wanted to set up a company designing corporate websites. Over there he'd seen how good websites could make money for companies, while over here a lot of people still hadn't cottoned on." The pair decided to go into business together.

Hatton Sr would provide some start-up capital and use his contacts to "get Ben in front of people", while his son would handle the technical aspects. It was a winning combination. Hatton's years in politics, media and public relations meant he had plenty of favours to call in, while his son proved adept at designing websites.

The new firm was called Rippleffect, and its first client was Everton Football Club, the team Hatton had supported since childhood. "We offered more sophisticated websites than our competitors. We focused on search engine optimisation to help raise the profile of the site and we also developed ways for sites to make money through ecommerce or emarketing." Hatton says that he "wasn't too involved with technical details, I was more focused on sales".

Success with Everton led to big contracts with clubs including Celtic and Fulham. Rippleffect also won a contract with THI, one of Europe's largest leisure park developers. In 2008, the firm's rapid growth caught the attention of newspaper group Trinity Mirror, which bought the company for £5.8m.

By now Hatton was ready to move on and leave his son to it. A friend was building a golf course in Cyprus "and had some apartments that he also wanted to sell. So I started helping him." Recent bad press about Cyprus property deals doesn't worry Hatton: "we never sold an apartment that wasn't built. They might have lost their value after the financial crisis, but then so has property around the world."

Hatton's latest business venture is Bike 2 Work Scheme, which helps companies manage their bike to work programme under a scheme set up by the government to give people an incentive to cycle to work.

Hatton's firm handles all the paperwork and directs clients' employees to one of the shops in its network of affiliates. "We don't charge the companies... but take a commission on the bikes sold." Hatton considers two of Britain's biggest challenges to be ageing and obesity.

"Bikes are a simple way to keep people healthy and keep them active in their old age." So far the firm has annual sales of £3.5m and Hatton is so confident of its prospects that last year he bought out his partner.

Since his transformation from left-wing militant into millionaire, some critics have accused Hatton, 65, of selling out'. His reply is typically blunt: "It's been 27 years since I left Liverpool city council. Since then politics has changed, the world has changed and I've changed with it."

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