The Business On... Jack Petchey, Businessman and philanthropist

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The Independent Online

What's his line of work?

He's got two businesses, actually: Petchey Leisure is a timeshare company. Petchey Holdings is an investment vehicle that Mr Petchey uses to take stakes in businesses of which he likes the look. Both are successful: this is his sixth decade in business.

Goodness, is he starting to think about retirement?

It would seem not. Although he turns 86 this year, Mr Petchey is still a busy man. He emerged yesterday as the mystery bidder for Lookers, the quoted car dealer. It's a deal that could be worth £260m, though Lookers isn't playing ball yet.

What's going on?

Mr Petchey wants Lookers to open its books to him, so that he can consider making a properly informed offer for the company, in which he already has a 17 per cent stake. It has said no.

Time to play hardball?

Maybe so. And don't let his charitable activities fool you: his Jack Petchey Foundation has given £65m to schools, clubs and projects for young Londoners, but he's no pushover.

What's his story?

Mr Petchey grew up in east London and worked as an office boy after leaving school at 14. After the Second World War, he applied for a management job at the company but was knocked back. So he bought a car and founded a car hire business. It later became a dealership – so Mr Petchey knows about Lookers' industry – and made him a fortune.

Does he have powerful allies?

One of his partners in the Lookers bid is Brett Palos, stepson of retail mogul Sir Philip Green.

Any other interests?

Mr Petchey was an investor in football long before clubs became fashion accessories. He bought Watford from Elton John in 1987, selling it back to the singer a decade later.

A wheeler and a dealer, then?

He started young. Aged 12, he was prosecuted for working under age in a street market. Accused of carrying vegetables, Mr Petchey got off after pointing out his wares were tomatoes, actually a fruit.