I grew up poor in Bentilee and can spot a gold-digger now I'm worth £1.5bn

Businessman John Caudwell's humble beginnings growing up in Stoke-on-Trent has stood him in good stead when it comes to spotting gold-diggers now that he's worth £1.5 billion.

The 71-year-old spent a largely unhappy 'street urchin' childhood in Wellesley Street, Shelton, and then on the Bentilee estate's Ubberley Road. It saw him start smoking from the age of seven, going for joy rides on milk floats and sneaking into the Odeon for free.

But his entrepreneurial spirit made keen to make it on his own and he moved into his mum's caravan.

Fast forward six decades since he moved to what was then Europe's biggest housing estate, John now lives in what he claims to be the UK's most expensive home in Mayfair, London, worth an estimated £250 million. He also splits his time between the capital and his country pad near Eccleshall, a mansion in Monaco, and sailing around the world on his superyacht Titania.

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John started out selling mobile phones in 1987, and almost two decades later flogged off Phones4U for £1.46 billion. He now says one thing he's soaked in since banking the eye-watering 10-figure sum is how to spot someone who's just after his money.

The 71-year-old, who attended Shelton Church of England Primary School, told the Times: “You can never be certain but I think I’d recognise a gold-digger from a hundred yards off, you know. They wouldn’t survive five minutes because of my questioning process, my interview process.

John Caudwell, Modesta Vzesniauskaite and son William -Credit: David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images
John Caudwell, Modesta Vzesniauskaite and son William -Credit: David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images

"My first wife met me when I was poverty-stricken and was living in my mother’s caravan when we got married. But with the subsequent partners, I was always very incisive in my conversation. The conversation would always be, without them knowing it, like an interview process, me digging and looking at ethics, looking at morality. Those sorts of things.”

John split from his first wife Kate McFalane - who he described as the 'most beautiful girl in Bentilee' - after 25 years in 2001 and was careful who he chose to settle down with next. He remained cautious after separating from Claire Johnson, his partner of 15 years, in 2014.

John Caudwell with his mum Beryl, grandma Mary and dad Walter
John Caudwell with his mum Beryl, grandma Mary and dad Walter -Credit:John Caudwell

John explained he almost has to conduct an 'interview process' - without the women knowing. His current partner Modesta Vzesniauskaite, who's 31 years his junior, evidently passed that test.

It was one day when John was standing on the shore with her that he pointed out his luxury superyacht Titania. He explained: “Since then she’s always said: ‘You made me cringe when you put your arm around me and cringe even more when you told me it was your boat. Because I thought, there’s another rich man trying to buy me'."

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