MICHELLE Mone’s life is an almost Dickensian tale of rags to riches, beginning with a Glasgow tenement and a beaten-up Renault 5 and ending with a seat in the House of Lords and a brand new Bentley.
Mone — now Baroness Mone of Mayfair — left school at 15 but went on to establish Ultimo, an underwear company that is worth millions today. She sold her stake in 2014. “My friends said I knew nothing about business or bras,” she says. “I told them I had a pair of boobs and I would work it out. It took me three years.”
Mone, 45, says her family was so poor, they shared a bedroom until she was 12. Her younger brother died of spina bifida when she was 10 and money was so tight that she had to shower at the local swimming pool. “I thought it was normal. Sometimes Mum put a steel bath in the middle of the living room.”
The family couldn’t afford a car until a spinal tumour left her father paralysed. “I had to stay at home and care for Dad,” she says. “We were given a Motability Scheme car — a Vauxhall Astra.” It was a “revelation” not having to walk everywhere.
Mone worked as a model to pay for driving lessons and passed her test first time at the age of 17.
“I bought a Renault 5 for £810. There were holes rusted through the floor and every time it rained I got soaked. I drove it to Nottingham once and it broke down four times.”
She had the first of her three children when she was 18, married the following year and landed a job with Labatt, a brewery firm, at 20.
“It became an unhappy marriage, so I compensated by buying diamonds, expensive holidays and cars. I bought a lot of cars”
“I was an admin girl before I joined marketing and they gave me an Audi A4 estate. I travelled around Scotland selling beer. I became head of sales and was given a Mercedes C-class.”
Mone lost her job when Labatt was taken over. She had hit on the idea for a cleavage-enhancing bra, supplemented with a new type of silicone, and used her redundancy money to go into business when she was 25. “Ultimo was launched in 1996 and was an overnight success.”
Her husband was her partner in the company and profits soared, but working together took its toll.
“It was tough,” she says. “It became an unhappy marriage, so I compensated by buying diamonds, expensive holidays and cars. I bought a lot of cars.”
Over the next 15 years, Mone changed her motors often, starting with a gold Bentley Arnage.
“I didn’t like that car, but I loved the Aston Martin DB9 that came after it. There were several Range Rovers, an Audi TT and a Porsche Panamera, before I returned to a Bentley.”
Her husband walked out on Christmas Day 2011 and a bitter divorce followed. “It was a difficult time but I’m over it now. I’ve sold Ultimo and I’m looking for my next big business venture.”
These days she can afford to let someone else do the driving, but she is not always comfortable in the back seat. She recalls one hopeless chauffeur: “I made him pull over so I could drive. He thought he was in charge of my life and I wasn’t having that.”
Michelle Mone: My life in cars
- 1989: Renault 5
- 1993: Mercedes C-class
- 2000: Bentley Arnage
- 2004: Aston Martin DB9
- 2016: Bentley Bentayga
- My dream car: Bentley Continental GT Speed