The men and women who make up the upper echelons of big business in the UK are no strangers to top-level sport. Just look at the owners of today's Premier League football clubs. Business people enjoy the thrill of live sport and have the money to back their chosen teams. But while football plays perfectly to the business leader who wishes to get involved in 'the people's game', polo is still seen by many as the preserve of the privileged. That makes the case of the 4th Marquess of Milford Haven all the more curious - as while he is one of the top backers of UK polo, he is also the man behind a business which was founded to save the man of the street money.
In the beginning of Marquess of Milford Haven
Teaming up with fellow investors such as Andrew Salmon, the former corporate financier for PwC, and Vip Amin, the US industrialist, the 4th Marquess of Milford Haven found himself in the right place at the right time. This time was the post-dotcom boom era, which was ushered in after the Millenium. The place was at the helm of uSwitch, a new website which aimed to save gas and electricity customers money on their bills by allowing them to compare different contract options. Crucially, they were now able to switch suppliers more quickly than ever before thanks to the deregulation which had taken place in the UK energy market.
Doing things differently
uSwitch caught the eye of the British consumer. It was a website which was a million miles away from the small print filled presentations they might have been accustomed to when shopping around for a new energy provider. The 4th Marquess of Milford Haven oversaw a business plan which aimed to make it as easy as possible for consumers to save money, and very soon, the whole market landscape had changed. That's because the 4th Marquess of Milford Haven's uSwitch wasn't the only price comparison website - the market had become filled, and even saturated, with them. What that provoked was a kind of price war whereby suppliers were now bidding to outdo each other by trying to offer the best benefits and contract perks. Who was the winner in this new race to offer savings? The consumer.
Building to a big sale
It might be said that one of the most important elements of being a business owner is knowing when to let go. It seems the 4th Marquess of Milford Haven chose the right time to sell uSwitch; he might have taken the organisation as far as it could go in the UK market, and by leaving it in the hands of US media giant EW Scripps after a £210 million sale, he offered uSwitch the chance to have a new lease of life.
But the 4th Marquess of Milford Haven's involvement in the price comparison market didn't end there. He was also instrumental in the exporting of the 'uSwitch formula' to foreign shores, in the form of EnCazip (Turkey) and MoneyGuru (Brazil). It proved that given the right market conditions, importantly including a country with an energy market which has recently been deregulated, price comparison is a compelling consumer concept.
Back to polo
Following the sale of uSwitch, the 4th Marquess of Milford Haven was able to channel more of his energies into a sport which he loves - polo. His whole family play polo, and he identified the former Sussex cattle farm of Great Trippetts as a perfect opportunity to develop a venue which Britain and Europe could be proud of. Now Trippetts is home to some of the top polo players from around the world during the season, with top class accommodation for grooms just one of the many facilities which are unmatched anywhere in the country.
The 4th Marquess of Milford Haven isn't your everyday business figure; unlike those Premier League owners, his favoured sport isn't 'the people's game', but his business was.