David Ross: Lincolnshire’s billionaire philanthropist

Dedication, hard work and an appreciation for history has been drilled into David Ross, Lincolnshire’s first billionaire and now a passionate philanthropist. His parents taught him strong values, good work ethic and inspired his love for Lincoln Cathedral. Now at the age of 50, he is one of the UK’s top businessmen and ranked 108th in The Sunday Times Rich List 2015 with a net worth of just over £1 billion.

Son of the fishing tycoon John Ross, David saw both his grandfather and father chair Grimsby’s only listed company, Cosalts. He understood the meaning of hard work and has put it into practice ever since.

This feature interview was first published in issue 40 of the Lincolnshire Business weekly magazine, now available to read at www.lincsbusiness.co. Subscribe to the email newsletter to receive the latest edition in your inbox this Friday.


The man who aspired to be a chartered accountant with a Law degree from the University of Nottingham, soon found that this was not his only passion. He co-founded Carphone Warehouse and Talk Talk, which saw him make his fortune over the years. However, with an interest in philanthropy, he is using his wealth to create more opportunities through the David Ross Foundation for underprivileged children and young adults. Now David also supports 33 academies across Lincolnshire and Northampton.

But his generosity didn’t stop there. With his passion for history and always keeping Lincolnshire close to his heart, David donated £1.5 million to the Lincoln Castle Revealed project. The money allowed for a new home for one of Lincoln’s most treasured pieces of history, the David P. J. Ross Magna Carta Vault.

David Ross at the Summer Cup, which is sponsored by the David Ross Foundation

David Ross at the Summer Cup, which is sponsored by the David Ross Foundation

Taking a chance

It was not long after graduating that David decided to take a chance with school friend Charles Dunstone, and in 1991, they opened up the first Carphone Warehouse store. With an investment pot of around £15,000 left to him by his grandfather, David and Charles went into business together, having no idea just how successful they would become.

“I don’t think it was so much coming up with an idea as thinking that one day more people would want mobile phones. In retrospect that was the right thing to believe at the time,” David explained.

“A mobile phone is a great advantage to you for a business because it meant that you didn’t need to have your wife or a PA on the phone. You could take your phone and you would be doing your job. So you could actually save a lot of money and it could make your business a lot more efficient. But nobody was really catering for the small, self employed part of the market and that was where we went to in the first place.

“One of the earliest stores that we had was in Harlow on an industrial estate next to a big B&Q and a McDonald’s. So all these self employed tradesmen would come in, buy what they needed at B&Q, get their breakfast at McDonald’s and then buy their mobile phone from us. It went really well.”

After a couple of years the mobile phone business changed and David started to introduce a number of consumer tariffs. In only four short years, David and Charles had expanded Carphone Warehouse to 20 stores across the UK.”

The full cover interview with David Ross is available to read in full here. For the latest dispatch of business news from across Lincolnshire delivered in your inbox every Friday, subscribe to the Lincolnshire Business magazine.