Dawes pockets pounds 70m from sale

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A WARRINGTON-BASED mobile phone entrepreneur who started out renting televisions yesterday pocketed pounds 70m when he sold his cellular phones business to Cellnet.

Martin Dawes, a reclusive businessman, started selling mobile phones on the Vodafone and Cellnet networks when they were first set up in 1985. Martin Dawes Telecommunications now has 800,000 customers and annual revenues of several hundred million pounds.

Cellnet is paying pounds 130m for an 80 per cent stake in the business, the proceeds of which will be divided between Mr Dawes and his family, the management and minority shareholder France Telecom. The remaining 20 per cent is owned by Vodafone, which has an option to sell its stake to Cellnet.

Mr Dawes is expected to reinvest some of the proceeds in his other business ventures, which include an Internet service provider and an innovative messaging service called Breathe.

Peter Erskine, managing director of Cellnet, said MDT was attractive because it had a lot of business users - an area in which Cellnet is keen to expand. "They are a major channel and they have a very large corporate sales force," he said. MDT also runs 15 shops and three call centres.

The business is expected to operate as a separate division within Cellnet and will continue to support its existing customers, 80 per cent of whom are Vodafone subscribers. However, Mr Erskine said an MDT priorities would be to sign up new customers for Cellnet.

David Goldie, MDT managing director, will continue to run the business as part of Cellnet.