68. Sir Terry Matthews
Groundbreakers (95 votes)
Dazzlingly successful entrepreneur who won the Ryder cup for Wales.
When a revolving door broke down at Newport’s imposing Celtic Manor Hotel, the staff didn’t have to call a repairman. A figure in a business suit was already on his hands and knees with a screwdriver and had it working again in minutes.
Very few of the world’s wealthiest people can mend revolving doors.
But Sir Terry Matthews is a highly unusual blend of talented engineer, evangelical salesman and technological visionary.
As a child in the Gwent Valleys he would take cars to bits and build small electric motors. He knew he was going to be lucky in life, he says, when he found a four-leaf clover in the grounds of a local Wesleyan chapel. Wesley Clover is now the name of his international investment company with interests in a bewildering range of high tech ventures.
His penchant for choosing corporate names reflecting his south Wales origins – Cross Keys, Newbridge and Newport have all featured in the Matthews empire- hints at a little sentimentality behind the hard-bitten exterior. Who else would invest hundreds of millions turning the former nursing home in which he was born into Europe’s largest hotel, golf and conference centre?
Terry Matthews started as an apprentice with the old GPO, now British Telecom, before reading engineering at Swansea. While on holiday in Canada he landed a job and stayed.
Bored after a few years, he borrowed the equivalent of Ł1,800 and started a firm called Mitel. It was a phenomenal success, offering the first affordable push-button tone phones and hastening the demise of old-fashioned rotary dialling.
After selling Mitel to his old bosses at BT, Matthews anticipated the information technology revolution by founding Newbridge Networks. In 2000 Alcatel of France bought Newbridge for just under Ł5 billion.
His fame spread beyond the financial pages when he won the biggest show in golf for Wales. The 2010 Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor promises – like its proprietor- to be truly “world class”.