Staffordshire businessman John Caudwell has vowed to shun tax avoidance schemes after using them to build his Phones4U empire in the 1990s.
Mr Caudwell, 69, said he was “extremely proud” of paying into the UK system and “absolutely wouldn’t” use loopholes to save money again.
Speaking to Lauren Laverne on the BBC’s Desert Island Discs, the Birmingham-born billionaire acknowledged he had taken advantage of tax avoidance schemes in order to be able to invest more heavily in Phones4U when it was still a fledgling company.
But he added: “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,” Mr Caudwell told the programme.
His attitude towards tax changed as he began to develop a social conscience, he said.
“There is a big groundswell of opinion out there among chief executives of public companies and smaller companies that the more tax you can avoid, the smarter you are,” Mr Caudwell said.
“There is a truth in that because you do have to be smart, but it’s wrong.”
Asked about his management style, Mr Caudwell, who lives at Broughton Hall, near Eccleshall, acknowledged he has been “quite aggressive” in professional environments in the past.
He said he had bullied in his school days to avoid being bullied himself, but that he had made efforts not to carry that mentality into adult life.
“I’ve spent the rest of my life, even though I’ve been building big companies and been quite aggressive in those companies, if I felt that I was beginning to veer towards any bullying type of mentality, I’ve tried to draw myself back from that,” he said.
“Sometimes of course, irritation and frustration at somebody who did something very stupid or was very lazy, would get the better of me and yes perhaps I was unkind again…I’d got my failings but overall I think I was a good boss.”
Mr Caudwell sold Phones4U, which was once Europe’s leading privately-owned mobile phone group, for £1.5 billion in 2006.
He has since set up a number of philanthropic projects including Caudwell Children, a children’s charity.
The businessman drew attention earlier in January when he issued an ultimatum to Boris Johnson over revelations about lockdown parties in Downing Street.
Mr Caudwell, who was one of the Conservative Party’s biggest individual donors at the last general election, told the BBC the Government’s “perceived arrogance” was “impossible to justify”.
“Sort it out, Boris, or step aside and let someone else sort it out so that the Tories aren’t wiped out at the next election,” he said.