Money makers: An eccentric approach to wine-making

Seventeenth-century courtier Sir Kenelm Digby lent his name and eccentricity to the art of English wine-making.

878-sussex-634

Grapes from Sussex, Hampshire and Kent are putting English wine on the map

The man who invented the wine bottle as we know it today, 17th-century courtier Sir Kenelm Digby, lent more to Digby Fine English than his name, says Matthew Caines in The Daily Telegraph. Digby's famed eccentricity is reflected in Trevor Clough and Jason Humphries' approach to making sparkling wine. With English fizz more of an emerging category than its cousin in France, the co-founders had to secure the best British grapes.

So rather than own their own vineyard, they contract others, mostly in Hampshire, Sussex and Kent, to grow the grapes and to help produce the end product. "One million new vines went into the ground last year, which should result in another one million bottles within the next seven to ten years," Clough explains.

"It's roughly one degree cooler here (than Champagne), which brings some freshness and zip to our wine." It's certainly proved popular. While the business has yet to register £1m in turnover, its first vintage (2009) was crowned best sparkling wine in England, while last year, Digby became the fastest-selling English sparkling in the US, where it is listed at three-star Michelin restaurant, Alinea.

The pizza king

Serial restaurateur David Page, 65, is a man used to doing things his own way, says the BBC's Chris Johnston. Expelled from school in 1969, Page's career at the Ordnance Survey ended prematurely when he refused to cut his hair. He tried teaching, and washed dishes at his local Pizza Express in southwest London on the side. When the opportunity arose to become branch manager, he ditched the classroom. By 1981, Page had taken out a second mortgage to buy the franchise to operate a Pizza Express in Chiswick, west London.

"If you fancied learning how to become a capitalist you became a franchisee," says Page. "I didn't know what a capitalist was my parents were socialists, so capitalism was a very dirty word." More franchises followed, and Page eventually became CEO, then chairman, of the chain, which was sold for £278m in 2003. Next, Page co-founded Clapham House, owner of Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Bombay Bicycle Club and Tootsies.

Clapham House was in turn bought by South Africa's Nandos for £30m in 2010. Then, in 2015, Page's new investment group, Fulham Shore, bought a majority stake in trendy pizza chain Franco Manca for £27.5m. It already has an outpost in Italy. As Page says, "Everybody loves pizza, all around the world."

Making fat profits from fast-food waste

Support-services firms rarely get much glory, says Francesca Washtell in City AM. Filta is a case in point. It makes deep-fat fryers safer, more efficient and environmentally sound. Since listing on Aim in late 2016, its share price has almost doubled. The inspiration for the franchise business came to 47-year-old founder and CEO Jason Sayers in 1996, after a conversation at his cricket club with a friend who had burnt his hands while trying to clean a deep-fat fryer.

Sayers' idea was to offer a service, called FiltaFry, providing machines that simultaneously suck the oil out of the top of fryers, and filter it. The business then began buying franchise owners around the world, including America in 2003. "The US is the obvious market to look at there are big fryers everywhere." says Sayer. "I mean, it's the unhealthiest place on the planet eating-wise. It's Mecca for us."

That's borne out in the figures. North America contributed £4.3m to the £6.6m revenue in the first half of 2017. Today, Filta has more than 180 franchise partners, providing services to more than 5,000 restaurants and commercial kitchens and saved over 7,000 tonnes of cooking oil in 2016 alone.

Mammon Mobius steps back into the shadows

"Exactly what does Mammon look like?" The Economist asked in 1999. "What is the face behind all those markets that seem to determine the fate of poor economies ("emerging", Mammon calls them) and helpless third-world firms?" The Economist thought it knew Mammon wore the face of Mark Mobius, emerging-market fund manager extraordinaire. Mobius's "hint of Bond villain" image was no doubt in part due to his signature bald pate, caused by a fire that damaged his hair, notes Bloomberg, but only added to his fame.

In 2006, a Japanese publisher even created a comic book chronicling his globe-trotting exploits. But now, after 30 years criss-crossing Asia in a $20m Gulfstream IV private jet (lined with suede and upholstered with iguana skin), Mobius, 81, is to step down from his last portfolio management role, on the Templeton Emerging Markets Investment Trust (Temit).

The son of a German father and a Puerto Rican mother, Mobius was born in New York, but swapped his US passport (a liability in his travels) for a German one. He started out in Hong Kong in 1967 and worked for various brokers in the 1980s. In 1987, when he was aged 50, Sir John Templeton asked him to run an emerging-markets fund. That October, the 1987 crash wiped out a third of the value of the fund. Mobius determined to diversify out of Asia and into Russia and Latin America, and became known for his "on-the-ground" approach to stock-picking, although the rise of the internet blunted the edge this gave him.

Still, in the past 15 years, Temit has returned an average of 16.2% a year well ahead of the MSCI Emerging Markets index, notes The Wall Street Journal. What started out as $100m in his fund in 1987 has "blossomed" into Franklin Templeton's emerging-markets group, with over $28bn in assets under management.

Recommended

Harley Finkelstein’s Shopify: the “Amazon for entrepreneurs”
Entrepreneurs

Harley Finkelstein’s Shopify: the “Amazon for entrepreneurs”

Shopify started as a snowboard shop that baulked at gifting its customers to Amazon. Now,it is an essential part of the internet’s infrastructure. Har…
15 May 2021
Anthony Tan: the Malaysian business scion taking on Uber
People

Anthony Tan: the Malaysian business scion taking on Uber

Anthony Tan has always been unabashedly ambitious and, in taxi-hailing apps, saw his chance to get into the history books. The competition, though, ma…
8 May 2021
António Horta-Osório: the tennis ace who saved Lloyds Bank
People

António Horta-Osório: the tennis ace who saved Lloyds Bank

António Horta-Osório was determined to rescue Britain’s largest high-street bank from disaster, and he succeeded, if at the cost of his own health. Ca…
2 May 2021
Cazoo’s Alex Chesterman: “I’m not an innovator, just a copycat”
People

Cazoo’s Alex Chesterman: “I’m not an innovator, just a copycat”

Serial entrepreneur Alex Chesterman likes to improve the consumer experience by spotting what’s broken, then fixing it. That’s been a successful strat…
24 Apr 2021

Most Popular

How will Joe Biden’s capital gains tax rise affect crypto prices?
Bitcoin & crypto

How will Joe Biden’s capital gains tax rise affect crypto prices?

The US president wants to increase capital gains tax – and that’s going to hit a lot of American cryptocurrency speculators. Saloni Sardana looks at h…
14 May 2021
US stocks look expensive – here’s what to own instead
Investment strategy

US stocks look expensive – here’s what to own instead

Right now, US stocks are among the most expensive in the world. So if you want a decent return on your investments, you should look into diversifying …
17 May 2021
Inheritance tax planning: the rules around gifting
Inheritance tax

Inheritance tax planning: the rules around gifting

There are plenty of legal ways to minimise an inheritance tax bill. Perhaps the simplest is to give away assets to reduce the size of your estate. Dav…
11 May 2021