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18 April 2004
Sunday Mail
100m Scotland's richest tycoon gives away fortune to charity

SCOTS tycoon Tom Hunter is giving pounds 100million of his fortune to charity, the Sunday Mail can reveal. He wants the record donation to be used to help children follow in his footsteps and support charities such as Cash for Kids and the Children's Hospice Appeal.

Hunter, who is worth pounds 500million, said: 'I can't think of anything worse than waiting until you are dead to leave the money because you have got no control over it.

'Investing in these things gives me a great deal of satisfaction, so I can't see the sense in waiting.'

The size of the gift will fuel comparisons to Scots steel magnate Andrew Carnegie who donated almost all his pounds 1billion fortune to good causes.

Hunter, 43, said: 'I read and have been influenced by Andrew Carnegie. He said, 'The man who dies rich dies in disgrace'.

'I have not turned into Mother Teresa and I don't want people to think of me in those terms.'

The pounds 100million will boost the Hunter Foundation, set up by the tycoon and his wife Marion. It helps children sharpen their business skills.

Since it was formed in 1998, the foundation has given more than pounds 13.5million to charitable projects.

-Hunter pledged pounds 500,000 to the Children's Hospice on Loch Lomondside - if Scots band Texas played at this year's Entrepreneurial Exchange summer ball. Lead singer Sharleen Spiteri agreed.

-In March, the tycoon joined forces with the Scottish Executive and invested pounds 1million in the XLerate programme, which is a designed to help youngsters who opt out of school.

-Hunter has previously donated pounds 2million to the Executive-backed 'Determined to Succeed' enterprise scheme. -Last year, he donated pounds 1million to Cash for Kids, with the funds covering the charity's costs for the next 10 years and in 2002 he raised almost pounds 1million for the Make A Wish Foundation in Scotland.

-He pledged a pounds 5million endowment to the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship at Strathclyde University.

Speaking exclusively to the Mail, the self-made millionaire said he would use all his business know-how to make sure the cash is spent wisely.

He added: 'When you first make a bit of money and people get to hear about it, you get letters.

'I read them and sent off cheques but I became despondent. You never hear if it did any good and I was frustrated because I wanted to know what happened.

'I started thinking about it in business terms. I want to know what my return is and I want regular updates.'

Hunter, from Cumnock, Ayrshire, will make sure his two children are well catered for. But he said leaving his fortune to them would be a 'burden'.

He added: 'I'm not planning on leaving my family destitute but once they are taken care of, there will still be a lot of money left.'

The Hunter Foundation invests in enterprise and education initiatives for children throughout Scotland. By targeting cash at projects, the foundation supports the creation of a more business-minded Scotland.

But Hunter says his cash is not an easy way out for government.

He said: 'Our experience has shown if we partner the likes of the Scottish Executive, it has been very positive.

'But if there is something the Executive should be doing, we only put money in to prove the model.

'Once we have proven it, we come out because the taxpayer should be doing that, not me.'

Last night, Hunter announced the appointment of high-profile American fundraiser Vartan Gregorian to the board of The Hunter Foundation.

Gregorian, who is president of the Carnegie Corporation in New York, said: 'Like Carnegie, Tom Hunter believes that private wealth should be used as a force for the public good.

'I look forward to working with Tom and his wife as they strengthen their philanthropic commitment and create a vision for a foundation that will be a force for this century in Scotland and elsewhere.'

Gregorian, who recently chaired the panel to select the design for the World Trade Center Memorial, has served on the boards of the J. Paul Getty Trust, the Aga Khan University and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Hunter said: 'Vartan is probably one of the most influential thinkers of this era in relation to philanthropy and the impact of education.

'His appointment will enable our trustees, and I believe Scotland, to benefit from an incredible network of contacts, programmes and leading- edge thinking that we can apply for the common good here in Scotland.' The two men first met after Hunter had sold Sports Division in 1998 and was analysing the most effective means of setting up a charitable institution in Scotland.

THF is working with the Carnegie Corporation on a major innovation in teaching.

Hunter believes giving Scottish children business education enables them to have a successful career.

He said: 'It's about giving kids more confidence and skills. Whether they go on to be entrepreneurs or brickies isn't the point. The point is they will do it with more confidence.'

Hunter says his appetite for money-making is as strong as ever. He said: 'Making money is only half the equation. It's what you do with it that makes you who you are.'

mailfile: Tom Hunter

From grocer's boy to multi-millionaire

TOM Hunter was born in 1961 and brought up in a close-knit Ayrshire mining community.

From this humble background, the retail boss acquired his work ethic.

It is a drive which has seen him amass a fortune.

In his youth, he helped his dad Campbell run his grocery store in New Cumnock, which was to be decimated by the miners' strike in the 1980s.

But his dad bounced back and began selling shoes at markets.

The seed of what was to prove a lucrative idea was sown in the mind of Hunter jnr.

He decided to rent space in jeans shops to sell trainers and negotiated concessions in three branches of an English chain and borrowed the cash to set up from his dad's bank.

He built up the Sports Division chain into a 240-store business employing 7500 people and sold it in 1998 for pounds 290million to JJB Sports.

Last year, Hunter and Gadgetshop boss Chris Gorman bought Birthdays, one of Britain's leading retailers of greetings cards and party products in a deal worth pounds 80million.

The deal followed two unsuccessful moves for department chain Selfridges and Allders. His pounds 197million bid for House of Fraser was also rejected. But failure is not a word that appears in the Hunter vocabulary. He has said that it was his father's 'can- do' attitude that inspired him in business. And one of his favourite expressions is: 'I do is better than IQ.'

Hunter also holds a five per cent stake in the Bhs group.


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