Richer Sounds founder on why he is giving away his millions - USA DAILY NEWS

Richer Sounds founder on why he is giving away his millions

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A few years ago, Julian Richer was a Conservative donor with a private jet, a couple of helicopters and several hundred ­million pounds to his name.

Now he uses his bus pass to get about, supports more than 400 charities and is on a mission to take on the bad bosses ruining the good name of business.

Putting his money where his mouth is, he has just handed over 60% – £3.5million – of his shares in hi-fi chain Richer Sounds to the workforce.

Each of his 531 employees will receive £1,000 for each year with the retailer – an average payout of £8,000.

Listen to Richer rail about what is happening in this country and you would think he’s a card-carrying ­Corbynista, rather than one of the ­country’s most successful entrepreneurs.



Julian Richer in 1991

 

“Our society is in an awful place at the moment,” he says. “I think the inequality, the injustice, the austerity is terrible.

“Fourteen million below the poverty line, including four million children, and four million of those in work – that’s a disgrace.

“One and half million in ­destitution, who cannot even afford the basics. We should be ashamed.”

We meet in Mayfair, London, but Richer is more worried about people living in places like those at the other end of the Monopoly board.

“There are so many things wrong with society at the moment – 1.7 million on zero-hour contracts who can’t get access to private housing because landlords won’t give them the time of day,” he says.

“Three million homes for social housing needed. We are locking 30,000 asylum seekers up every year without judge or jury. It is outrageous.

The criminal justice system is falling apart. Prisons are bursting, with the highest levels of suicide, self-harm and assault we have seen in our life time.”



While playing with band Ten Millennia during an instore session at HMV Manchester on August 22, 2018

Richer, 60, started wheeler-dealing at private school in Bristol.

By the time he was 23, he had opened his first Richer Sounds selling consumer electronics and was driving a Rolls-Royce. At one point he even had a Lear jet and two helicopters.

“Now I cycle and get the Tube and I have a bus pass since I turned 60,” he says, grinning with enthusiasm. “I get to take the bus for free. Fantastic!”

Not only does not he not sound like your traditional businessman, he makes a point of not looking like one.

He is dressed in tight black jeans and sports a 1970s prog-rock hairstyle. He was a drummer in a band called Ten Millennia for several years, but that has been put on hold.

Worth an estimated £160million according to the Sunday Times rich list, Richer, who has been married to former model Rosie since 1982, says he is proud to pay his taxes in full and he wants others to do the same. He estimates the tax gap – the difference between the amount owed to the Government and the amount collected by HMRC – is as much as £100billlion.



Julian Richer speaking with the Daily Mirror’s Head of Politics Jason Beattie

He won’t name names, but he’s not impressed with “giant internet retailers”, landlords who use offshore trusts to cut their inheritance bills, or celebrities who use offshore tax systems to pay less to the Exchequer. He is also appalled by how a few bad businesses give decent bosses a bad name.

At Richer Sounds he believes he has created the template for responsible capitalism and now he wants other firms to follow his example.

Handing over control of the company to the workforce was not only the “right thing to do” – he now also sleeps better at night, he says.

“People have gone bust around me,” he points out. “Comet, Maplins and hundreds of independents. We are mercilessly under fire from the internet but we are flourishing. I really believe the way we have treated our colleagues has benefited the business hugely.”

He gives an example: Richer Sounds owns 12 holiday homes, including four overseas in Venice, Amsterdam, Barcelona and Paris, that staff can use for free.

“Over 70% of our entire workforce use the homes at least once a year for free holidays,” he says.



At Richer Sounds he believes he has created the template for responsible capitalism and now he wants other firms to follow his example

“We are turning over the thick end of £200million and shrinkage [a retail term meaning theft by staff] should be between £2million and £4million.

“But our shrinkage is 0.1% [£20,000]. So that’s millions of pounds a year saved, which pays for the holiday homes many times over.”

Richer set up Tax Watch to shine a light on firms that do not pay their fair share of tax in the UK, and is also ­separately funding a legal test case to try and stop the use of zero-hours contracts.

The third plank of his crusade to improve capitalism is to get firms to sign up to a Good Business Charter, containing 10 “commandments” ranging from paying the living wage to using ethical suppliers.

Richer says: “Responsible capitalism is better for society and ­better for business,” adding that it is time to “move the dial ­culturally”, so that tax avoiders are ­vilified rather than lionised.

“The scumbags who don’t get it and want to live offshore and exploit their staff and rip off their customers and not pay any tax – the state needs to be much firmer with them.

“I love paying tax within reason, as long as every other so-and-so is paying it.”



After giving up 60% of his business earlier this year, each of his 531 employees will receive £1,000 for each year with the retailer – an average payout of £8,000

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What British people really care about is fairness, he reckons, and he wants to encourage businesses to behave well.

“For instance, the Government could say we are only going to give you a public procurement contract if you sign up to the Good Business Charter.”

Richer, who has no children, lives with Rosie in Yorkshire and was a member of David Cameron’s Leader’s Group for four years – donors who pay at least £50,000 a year to the Tory Party in return for access to the PM.

So what does he think of Conservative plans to slash taxes?

“Three million homes for social housing need building; 14 million people are in poverty,” he says.

“What rational, decent person would say it is a good time to cut tax when they have to walk over 50 people sleeping in doorways on their way to the office?”

Thirteen years ago, Richer was baptised into the Church of England, and frequently during our conversation he says he’s been blessed.

Some of his ideas may be quirky – he wants everyone’s tax returns to be published online – but he makes his points with such good humour, he’s very difficult to dislike. He’s even given up his band to concentrate on his campaign for tax justice and better business.

“There is a groundswell of opinion towards responsible capitalism and I am in a good position to spread the word,” he says, proudly.

“The band has been put on hold. This is so much important than playing drums.”

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