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Plumbing business founder and wife to land £500m fortune

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Richard Harpin and his wife Kate in Monaco - Ken Lennox
Richard Harpin and his wife Kate in Monaco - Ken Lennox

An entrepreneur who started a rabbit-breeding business when he was six years old is set to pocket £500m along with his wife after selling his home repairs company.

Canadian investment outfit Brookfield Asset Management will pay £4.1bn for HomeServe, which is one of the largest home emergency firms in the UK and has growing international operations.

The company was co-founded in 1993 in Walsall by Richard Harpin.

Mr Harpin and his wife Kate, who live in North Yorkshire, where they run a village pub and a ferry boat service, are expected to net £490m from the deal, as they own stakes of 7.4pc and 4.8pc respectively.

A self-described “northerner to the core”, Mr Harpin has been the chief executive of Homeserve for nearly three decades.

He has his own website which advises fellow entrepreneurs to "reinvent or die", and proposes a reading list of books such as Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

He started his first venture at the age of six, breeding and selling rabbits, but his earliest breakthrough was converting fishing flies named "hookers" into fashion accessories in 1982.

The feather earrings were sold in hair salons and promoted with the slogan “Hookers set to hit the high street” in national and regional newspapers in 1982.

It will bring an end to the FTSE 250 group's 18 years as a listed company and also marks one of the biggest deals for a public UK company so far this year.

Mr Harpin said: "Since HomeServe was founded in 1993 with just £500,000 of capital from South Staffordshire Group, the company has gone from strength to strength and now operates in 10 countries with a workforce of around 9,000 employees."

He added: "I am proud of the company we have built and am delighted that Brookfield is committed to providing long-term capital and global expertise."

It is not clear whether he will remain in the same role after the acquisition is completed.

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