A refugee from Idi Amin’s Uganda, who borrowed £5,000 to start a car parts business when he was just 18, has landed a £225m fortune after selling the company to Chicago-based LKQ Corporation.
Sukhpal Singh Ahluwalia, 52, has sold Euro Car Parts, Britain’s biggest distributor of parts for cars and light commercial vehicles, to the Nasdaq-listed auto components group. He stands to make a further £55m if the company hits growth targets for 2012 and 2013.
Mr Singh was 13 when his family fled from the Ugandan tyrant, spending time in a refugee camp that he later said “shaped my DNA”.
Arriving in Britain, he found the markets of Petticoat Lane and Liverpool Street more to his liking than school, noting how “from the age of 15, I was in the thick of commercial life”.
His break came in 1978 when he borrowed money from his father and Barclays bank to buy a struggling car parts shop in Willesden, north London, called Highway Autos. “On my first day, a customer came in looking for a part and had to help me find it,” Mr Singh once said, recalling how the shop carried 2,000 to 3,000 lines of stock.
Having extended opening hours to 7am to 7pm for every day except Sunday, Mr Singh raised sales tenfold to £4m and quickly set about opening new stores.
Today, Wembley-based Euro Car Parts has 90 branches across the UK, employing more than 3,500 people and supplying 114,000 parts. Originally focusing on BMW, Mercedes, Porsche and Volkswagen parts, the business now spans all major car makers.
Turnover rose 45pc to £272m last year, though pre-tax profits slipped from £17m to £15.8m. The company opened a 400,000 sq ft national distribution centre in Tamworth and won contracts with the RAC and Kwik-Fit.
Mr Singh and his team will continue running the business and expects to benefit from the US company’s access to fresh capital for expansion.
“This new partnership with LKQ will help the Euro Car Parts management team to continue our rapid expansion in the UK market and to explore additional opportunities throughout Europe,” Mr Singh said.
One source who knows him well said: “He’s a phenomenal entrepreneur, incredibly driven and very bright and personable. He’s got a good insight into people.”
Mr Singh takes a simple approach to business, once saying: “My philosophy is that the customer is always right, even when he is wrong.”
Story via: Sikhnet