Charlie Mullins: Britain’s richest plumber launches a new venture

Plumbing tycoon and businessman Charlie Mullins aims to become the "Harrods of the handyman world".

Chief executive of Pimlico Plumbers, Charlie Mullins arrives at the Supreme Court in London on June 13, 2018
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Charlie Mullins’ father worked in a toy car factory. His mother cleaned homes. Today, Mullins, 71, lives in a £10 million London penthouse with a view of the Thames, say Sabah Meddings and Michael Sasso on Bloomberg

He can credit his “dazzling rise to the unlikely intersection of high finance and blue-collar labour”. Mullins left school at 15 with no qualifications and became an apprentice to a plumber. Over four decades, he built a successful firm, Pimlico Plumbers, that sought to improve the industry’s reputation for poor service. 

Smartly dressed workers in clean vans would turn up promptly, for a premium price. In the year ending May 2021, Pimlico reported £49.2 million in revenue, distributing £3.2 million to Mullins in dividends. He sold out at the end of 2021 to Wall Street giant KKR for £140 million. Mullins now says he regrets selling. 

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Sales have declined since the acquisition, a son and grandson have quit in frustration and Mullins says he hears complaints about service from customers who assume he’s still in charge. The American buyers lack the personal touch associated with smaller, British companies, he says, and so he is now planning to go “head to head with his former empire” by setting up a new company, says Lucy Burton in The Telegraph

WeFix will be trading when a non-compete clause agreed with Pimlico’s new owners ends this September. A fleet of distinctive vans is ready to be rolled out, and the plan is for the venture to repeat Mullin’s initial success and become the “Harrods of the handyman world”. Mullins, who has become a celebrity thanks to his rock-star looks and conservative commentary for the media, affirms there will be no “working from home” at WeFix. At Pimlico, he forbade workers to use their smartphones and is known for his no-nonsense approach. 

Workers at WeFix will, however, get a share of the profits after a year’s service. While most rich founders mumble about making a difference, Mullins is straightforward about what gets him out of bed in the morning, says Lucy Tobin on This Is Money. “Money motivates me,” he says. “Become an apprentice plumber and you’ll never run out of work, and you’ll earn loads of money.” It’s a strategy that’s worked, and he’s sticking with it.

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Stuart Watkins

Stuart graduated from the University of Leeds with an honours degree in biochemistry and molecular biology, and from Bath Spa University College with a postgraduate diploma in creative writing. 

He started his career in journalism working on newspapers and magazines for the medical profession before joining MoneyWeek shortly after its first issue appeared in November 2000. He has worked for the magazine ever since, and is now the comment editor. 

He has long had an interest in political economy and philosophy and writes occasional think pieces on this theme for the magazine, as well as a weekly round up of the best blogs in finance. 

His work has appeared in The Lancet and The Idler and in numerous other small-press and online publications.