‘We used to have to have people 24/7 in his bedroom in case he tried to kill himself’: Billionaire phone tycoon John Caudwell reveals how he feared his son would commit suicide over Lyme disease
- Phones 4U founder John Caudwell reveals fear that son might take his own life
- Rufus, now 26, contracted Lyme disease in 2014, had 24/7 security in his room
- Billionaire Caudwell shares the emotionally charged tale on Desert Island Discs
Billionaire businessman John Caudwell today reveals how he feared his son might take his own life after catching Lyme disease.
In an emotionally charged edition of Desert Island Discs, the Phones 4u founder fights back tears as he describes the impact of his son Rufus’s diagnosis in 2014.
The infection can lead to a range of debilitating conditions including severe headaches and heart palpitations.
‘I was devastated because my brilliant son, who was the most confident person you’ve ever met, turned into this anxious wreck,’ says the father-of-six.
He adds: ‘Here I am now with my own son, a brilliant young man with an amazing life ahead of him who is struck down and I was completely powerless to help.
‘There were many, many, many times when we thought we’d lost him. We used to have to have 24/7 people in his bedroom in case he tried to kill himself.
‘He’s many times since said the only thing that kept him alive was because we were fighting so hard for him and loved him so much.
‘He is doing brilliantly now… It’s never ever too late. You can come back from the most horrendous situation in life.’
In an emotionally charged edition of Desert Island Discs, Phones 4u founder John Caudwell fights back tears as he describes the impact of his son Rufus’s diagnosis in 2014
Rufus is now 26 and Mr Caudwell, 69, also recalls his own troubled youth and an occasion when his father took grave offence at his Beatles haircut.
‘I grew this Beatles cut and my dad eventually said when he realised what it was, “We are not having the Beatles anywhere near this house”, and lopped it all off with his shears and my hair actually never grew back properly after that,’ he says.
‘So it was also the end of my hair-growing days and the end of my Beatles days and a sort of example again where my father just overreacted really.’
Mr Caudwell suggests that his difficult relations with his father may have been linked to his wartime experiences, saying: ‘Unfortunately, I didn’t really from him get the love or the fairness that I would have really liked.
‘In the very early years when I was five or six, I used to wet the bed and he’d be very, very angry about me doing that and I think looking back he probably had PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] because he treated me quite badly.’
Mr Caudwell became a father again last year when his partner Modesta Vzesniauskaite, 38, a former Olympic cyclist from Lithuania, gave birth to a son, William.
Mr Caudwell became a father again last year when his partner Modesta Vzesniauskaite, 38 (pictured together in May 2021), a former Olympic cyclist from Lithuania, gave birth to a son, William
The Birmingham-born entrepreneur, who reportedly once paid himself in gold bars and fine wines to minimise his National Insurance contributions, admits he once did everything he could to avoid paying tax.
‘At the time I was scratching my way forward, this is not sort of an excuse it’s a reality… Every pound that I could save, I could reinvest in the business,’ he says.
‘So, paying as little tax as we possibly could was really important. But I think all of these tax fiddles, even though they were legitimate, need stamping out.
‘Would I do that again? No, I absolutely wouldn’t, but I know why I did it at the time.’
- Desert Island Discs is on BBC Radio 4 today at 11am and will be repeated on Friday at 9am
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