Entrepreneur's golden farewell

2006

He is notorious as the hard-driven entrepreneur who once banned staff from using e-mail because it reduced productivity, but John Caudwell, the billionaire founder of UK mobile phone retailer Phones4U looks like being remembered by many of his staff for a rather different parting shot.

Because Caudwell, who sold his business for £1.46bn earlier this year, rounded off the firm's Christmas party this year by giving away £3.5 million to 500 of his most loyal employees.

"These girls came round with gold envelopes on silver trays," said one employee who opened an envelope containing £7,000. "I didn't have any idea what they were. Then we saw peoples' faces as they opened them. There were shouts and screams. It was crazy. It was a shock, a very, very good shock."

Caudwell said that his senior executives had done well out of the firm's sale and that he wanted to look after people lower down the pay chain.

"I've got a lot of people who have been very dedicated and loyal and hard-working over the years, and it felt like the right thing to do.

"After I'd made my speech, one girl came and told me that her husband had just walked out on her and left her in a financial mess. Another said she'd now be getting a wheelchair for her disabled son, and it would change her life."