Sir Thomas Blane Hunter (born 6 May 1961) is a Scottish businessman, entrepreneur, and philanthropist.
In April 2007, Hunter was reported in the Sunday Times Rich List as the first ever home-grown billionaire in Scotland, with an estimated wealth of £1.05 billion. Due to the financial crisis of 2007–2010 slicing an estimated £250 million from his fortune, Hunter was overtaken as Scotland's richest man in late 2007 by Jim McColl, head of Glasgow engineering firm Clyde Blowers, who has an estimated fortune of £800 million.
Tom set up his first business after graduating from Strathclyde University as he was in his own words “unemployable”. With a £5,000 loan from his father Campbell and matching funds from a bank he started selling trainers from the back of a van. Hunter built the business into Europe’s largest independent retailer. In 1998 in an unsolicited offer, Dave Whelan’s JJB Sports offered to buy the larger Sports Division for £290 million; Hunter accepted, earning himself £252 million.
Other business activities
Hunter had expanded Sports Division through financing supplied by the Royal Bank of Scotland, but when he proposed the takeover of Olympus Sports, RBS refused to finance the deal. Through his friend Sir David Murray, he met Halifax Bank of Scotland governor Gavin Masterton on a trip to watch Rangers F.C. play Juventus, and subsequently built his business on the HBoS relationship.
Senior lending manager Peter Cummings introduced Hunter to property development, which resulted in his purchase of stakes in builder Crest Nicholson, and retirement homebuilder McCarthy & Stone. In 2001 Cummings introduced Hunter to fellow HBoS client Nick Leslau, which led to the purchase of stakes via Leslau's Prestbury Investment Holdings in the freehold property portfolios of Travelodge hotels, licensed premises; and the theme park portfolio of Merlin Entertainments, including Alton Towers.
In August 2013 Hunter put up some of the money that enabled founder, David Moulsdale, to save Optical Express eye surgery chain after Royal Bank of Scotland threatened to seize control.
West Coast Capital
In March 2001, Hunter was a founding partner of West Coast Capital, the private equity arm of the Hunter Family. Through this firm, he has become a major shareholder in a number of retailers - including USC, Office, D2, Qube; and 8% of British Home Stores (BHS), with the bulk owned by Sir Philip Green, subsequently disposing of them all. His other investments included Wyevale Garden Centres.
At its height, West Coast investments covered over 50 companies, and Hunter was touted as a possible bidder for Selfridges - he lost out to Galen Weston. However, in light of the Financial crisis of 2007–2008 he sold his stake in Dobbies Garden Centres to partner Tesco, lost his entire holding in Crest Nicholson; and a majority of his stakes in McCarthy & Stone and Wyevale Garden Centres.
West Coast Capital now holds a number of major investments in property, ecommerce and data analytics including a large stake in listed Secure Income Reit Plc, majority control of the £1 billion Winchburgh Village development and a substantial stake in Order Dynamics.
West Coast Capital directly funds, alongside the Hunter Family, venture philanthropy, The Hunter Foundation.
Advised to move to Monaco after the sale of Sports Division, Hunter wanted to raise his family in his homeland. With a growing realisation that making money was, as he told Andrew Marr in a 2005 BBC interview, "only half of the equation;" and inspired by his hero Andrew Carnegie, whose book "The Gospel of Wealth" central premise he often quotes:
Hunter with his wife resultantly established The Hunter Foundation in 1998 with a £10 million cheque as a tax management vehicle. After discussions with Vartan Gregorian, head of the Carnegie Foundation in New York City, Hunter set a cause and a method which has resulted in the foundation donating in excess of £50m to supporting, educational and entrepreneurial projects in Scotland and sustainable development in Sub-Saharan Africa in partnership with former President Bill Clinton through the Clinton Hunter Development Initiative.
In 2001, Hunter was interviewed for the STV programme Rich, Gifted and Scots discussing his wealth, influences and philanthropy. Hunter coined the term "venture philanthropy" – using his investment pledges to leverage more cash from others to invest with him and becoming involved in the strategic delivery of the initiatives he backed. This ensured he could make a bigger impact with his money.
His donations and beneficial projects have included:
- £6m to the Band Aid appeal
- £1m to support the Make Poverty History campaign
- Supported the Live 8 concerts.
- £100,000 in a £500,000 joint project with the Scottish Executive.
- £5m donation to establish the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship at the University of Strathclyde
- £1 million to the Children in Need charity appeal telethon
- £1 million to the Comic Relief charity appeal. Matched the £1 million raised during Comic Relief Does The Apprentice
- US$10–25 million to the William J. Clinton Foundation.
- Backed the Entrepreneurial Spark start-up accelerator, hosting their Ayrshire 'hatchery' in his Olympic Park building.
Scotland's former first minister, Jack McConnell, has said of Hunter:
In October 2013, Hunter was awarded the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy. Described by some as the "Nobel Prize for philanthropy", the medal recognises those who use their private wealth for public good and is awarded biannually to global figures leading the way in this field. He dedicated the award to his father, who he describes as his "hero and inspiration".
In August 2014, Hunter unveiled the scotlandseptember18.com website dedicated to providing impartial sources of information related to the Scottish Independence referendum. The site focused on 16 questions central to the referendum debate.
In 1997, he was awarded Alumnus of the Year by the University of Strathclyde.
In 2005 he received a knighthood for "services to Philanthropy and to Entrepreneurship in Scotland".
In 2013 he was awarded the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy.
He is married to Marion, Lady Hunter and has three adult children.
In 2001 Hunter is reputed to have spent £1m on his 40th birthday party, at which Stevie Wonder performed. The party was held at his home in Cap Ferrat, on the Côte d'Azur, which he sold to a Russian business for reputedly £55m in late 2007.