It's hard to imagine Sir Paul Judge - the businessman most famous for turning a £90,000 investment in Premier Brands into £45m in just three years - sleeping on beaches as part of a road trip. On Wednesday he adds chairman of the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) to an already glowing CV.
He lives in an apartment on the 18th floor of one of London's most prestigious blocks with a view of the capital that is rivalled perhaps only by the one from the London Eye. Both his sons are about to start at Cambridge - his Alma Mater - and he is married to Barbara, a high-flier in her own right who has a CV that possibly outshines his own. Life seems perfect, almost too perfect, and you can't help but wonder if the solo road trip Sir Paul took across the States in his yellow 1967 mustang in the summer of 1972 was the only time he has really cut loose. "I drove all around America - down to Mexico City and then back through Texas and New Orleans," he says, adding he slept in hotels "or I slept on the beach or in the car".
For a man who was made deputy finance director of Cadbury Schweppes at the age of 28, it will come as no surprise that Sir Paul wasn't in America by chance. He had landed a scholarship to the Wharton Business School of the University of Pennsylvania, where he was on a two-year MBA course, after graduating from Cambridge. A quick flick through Sir Paul's CV, which is published on his personal website, will tell you that he graduated with his MBA in the top 5 per cent of his class.
"It was a tremendous break getting to America. I was paid $400 a month and the British government grant here was £395 a year," he says, adding: "I went over in 1971 - on the same scholarship and at the same time as Duncan Kenworthy - the producer of Four Weddings and a Funeral."
The CV also tells you that Sir Paul was awarded an open scholarship at Trinity College, Cambridge - his first major break. "Getting into Cambridge was obviously important," he says.
The son of a schoolmaster, Sir Paul, an only child, grew up in the Forest Hill area of South London. His first real job, he says, was selling programmes at Blackheath rugby club on Saturday afternoons. Fast-forward to 1989 - 16 years after he left the Wharton Business School in the US - and Sir Paul had amassed a £45m fortune.
After a 13-year-long career at Cadbury Schweppes, he negotiated the £97m buyout of the company's food businesses, whose products included Typhoo tea, Marvel dried milk and Cadbury's drinking chocolate, to form Premier Brands. Three years later, after its annual profits had risen from £6m to £31m, the business was sold for £310m, valuing Sir Paul's £90,000 investment at £45m - a 500-fold increase. He also made "probably a couple of million" from an early investment in Belgo, the restaurant chain, and still has interests in various private companies although is deliberately vague about which ones.
But not everything has gone to plan. He is said to have been ousted from his position as the Director General of the Conservative Party in 1995 by Brian Mawhinney, the then Tory chairman, as part of an effort to improve the party machine. He also fought and lost a libel case against the Guardian and had to pay costs estimated at £300,000. The report at issue had alleged that Sir Paul tried to obstruct inquiries into Tory donations made by Asil Nadir.
Then there were the suggestions that he had made a play for the chairmanship of WPP - the advertising group where he was a director. "That's a non-story," says Sir Paul, adding: "It was a meeting where somebody said something and it all got blown out of proportion."
He is reluctant to talk further on the matter, does not want to speak about his private life and seems rather uncomfortable in general although this could be put down to the presence of the photographer. "Have you got enough photos yet?" he asks.
When the conversation heads back to his CV, he cheers up somewhat. "Yes, I've done rather well. I've been busy," he says. Does he think there have been any failures, I wonder? "There haven't been any career failures - well, not yet. That's a dangerous thing to say."
A key turning point seems to have come during his time at university. "When I was at Cambridge, the reason I moved from natural sciences to management studies was a book I read called Anatomy of Britain by Anthony Sampson, which lists and describes the different institutions and I decided that the business area was a good one to be in," he says.
Interestingly, for one who went on to enjoy so much success in the business arena, he admits life could have panned out differently had he not read that book: "I might have done chemistry for a while and I may then have gone into a company as a research scientist".
He has since donated £8m of his fortune to Cambridge to found its business school, called the Judge Institute of Management. Would he have done anything differently if he had his time over again? "No. It's all worked out wonderfully well, really," he says, adding he "can't complain" with his lot.
So what does Sir Paul do for fun? Surely it can't all be work, work, work? "All the things I do are of interest. I like travelling. But life is sufficiently interesting," he says.
Aside from the apartment in Pimlico, with its spectacular view across the capital from the Battersea Power Station to the London Eye, he also has a house in France. His interests include photography and, unlike many other businessmen of his age, he is not into golf.
When he takes over as chairman of the RSA on Wednesday, as it enters its 250th year he will, appropriately, give his inaugural lecture on 250 years of globalisation. "Although globalisation is a new word, the process has been going on for at least 250 years ... greater interconnectedness is what allows economic growth," he says.
Would he be keen on another high profile role in the business world himself? "No. I have a very full life with all the organisations I'm involved in," he says, adding his days are now pretty much booked up with meetings. As if on cue, the doorbell goes, marking the start of another.
SIR PAUL JUDGE - STILL FLYING HIGH
Position: Sir Paul becomes chairman of the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) on 1 October. He is a director of Schroder Income Growth Fund and is also a member of the advisory board for Barclays Private Bank.
Education: He graduated with an MBA from the Wharton Business School of the University of Pennsylvania.
Career: Joined Cadbury Schweppes in 1973 and spent 13 years at the company. He was director general of the Conservative Party from 1992 to 1995, and has also been a director at the Boddington Group.
Interests: Travel, photography.Reuse content