Plumbing boss Charlie Mullins talks to ME & MY MONEY

Luxury: Charlie Mullins bought a £10million penthouse in Westminster

Multimillionaire plumber Charlie Mullins says his top priority is to spend all his money and enjoy the best things life has to offer. Mullins founded Pimlico Plumbers in 1979 and sold the company for £145million last year. He told Donna Ferguson he didn’t even celebrate with a bottle of champagne the night he signed the contract because he was too shocked by 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 an eight-bedroom beachfront villa in Marbella, Spain. The 70-year-old regularly stays with his 32-year-old fiancé, singer-songwriter Raquel Reno, at the Burj Al Arab, a seven-star hotel in Dubai that costs £5,000 a night.

He received an OBE for services in the plumbing industry in 2015 and has four children with his first wife, Lynda.

What did your parents teach you about money?

That it was difficult to get there and you have to work for it. My mother was a cleaner and my father worked in a factory moving boxes. Money was tight. We often lacked food.

When I was nine, I worked with my brothers cleaning cars, delivering milk, and running errands to pay for the food. Back then there were no free school meals. I remember going to bed hungry.

We had an outside toilet, not a bathroom. The only source of heating was a coal fire in the front room and when the coal ran out that was about it. It was cold, especially at 6am when I got up to deliver milk. But a lot of my buddies were in the same situation. For me it was just normal.

Ever had trouble making ends meet?

Yes. I left home when I was 16 and fought my way through until I was 19 and finished my apprenticeship as a plumber. In order to be able to pay my rent, I cleaned all night on Fridays and worked in a pub basement on the weekends. I didn’t do much else besides work.

Have you ever been paid stupid money?

Not that I remember. But the best payday I’ve ever had was when I sold my business for £145m. Let’s face it, I’ll never get a better one. It was also the biggest shock I’ve ever had.

For years I thought my business was worth a lot, but it felt like it literally happened overnight.

Suddenly I had £145m in the bank. After that I was in shock for a few days. 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 to dinner and told her the deal was done. We didn’t even open a bottle of champagne. It was difficult to take it all in.

What was the best year of your financial life?

Last year. But before that, 2020 was my best. Trading at Pimlico Plumbers rose 15 to 20 percent during the pandemic. My plumbers were classified as key workers, so we were allowed to work and we were among the few who chose to.

I’ve invested £100,000 in masks, gloves, thermometers and hand sanitiser – I really threw myself into the city because it seemed so obvious we had to do this. We got test kits six months before the government came up with the idea. And we advertised that we had security in place and a customer could leave the door open and pay online with a credit card – they didn’t even have to see us.

If we had had 100 plumbers, our sales would have probably doubled. In the end my wages in 2020 were £6million with dividends, that was the most money I’ve ever made in a year.

What’s the most expensive thing you’ve bought for fun?

It was a sequin blue Phantom Rolls-Royce for £450,000 in 2020. Every car I ever buy I spray paint that color – the color of the Pimlico Plumbers brand.

I’ve had a few Bentleys before, but I bought it because I think it’s the ultimate car to buy when in the shop.

It’s the same car as Alan Sugar and Simon Cowell – and they can buy whatever they want.

Best money decision you’ve made?

I bought a massive 30,000 sqft warehouse in Lambeth, South West London for £1.7million in 2000 and turned it into my headquarters. At the time, Pimlico Plumbers was too small for such a large building with just 50 employees, but I saw the potential.

This allowed us to grow and increase our sales. When I sold the company we employed 150 people and the building was worth £10m.

Driving force: One of Charlie's Bentleys with a personalized license plate

Driving force: One of Charlie’s Bentleys with a personalized license plate

Are you saving for retirement or investing in the stock market?

No, I do not. I used to save for retirement when I was 20. But I stopped when I bought my first house at 24. That’s when I realized that a pension was pointless for me. I don’t invest in the stock market either. I don’t know anything about it and I just don’t trust anyone with my money. I listen to stockbrokers and they talk about investment returns — and I feel like that’s out of my control.

I put part of the £145m into a trust for my four children and their families. I have always invested my own money in property.

I have three properties in Marbella, Spain: an apartment and two villas that I am going to demolish to build a large eight bedroom beachfront villa. I also have a three bedroom penthouse on the River Thames, opposite MI6 in London, which I bought for £10m in January.

What luxury do you allow yourself?

Traveling to Dubai and staying in a seven star hotel, the Burj Al Arab, with my fiancee. It costs between £4,000 and £5,000 per night. We go there probably 5 times a year. At Christmas we stay a month.

If you were chancellor, what would be the first thing you would do?

I would create state-funded apprenticeships and double the money apprentices receive from employers. Your pay is too low. I would also make sure that when a youngster leaves school, he goes to a job, to university or to a government-sponsored apprenticeship.

Do you donate money to charity?

Yes, I donate to the Shooting Star children’s hospice. It does an amazing job of making dying children feel more comfortable.

What is your top financial priority?

Having a good time. It’s not my family because I’ve already made sure they’re taken care of. Now my priority is to spend as much money as possible and enjoy the best things in life. I don’t want to be the richest person in the graveyard.

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