The Early Years
After leaving school at 15 with no qualifications, Scot entrepreneur Willie Haughey succeeded in building the biggest privately-owned facilities management company in Europe with a turnover of £400 million.
From a fledgling operation with just four employees in 1985, to a global giant employing 11,000 people, Glasgow-based entrepreneur Willie Haughey grew from a working-class Gorbals boy to the largest private employer in Scotland.
Delivering milk kept him in pocket money before the young Willie finally landing an apprenticeship with local firm Turner Refrigeration. After developing his engineering skills at Springburn College, Willie spent two and half years in Abu Dhabi, working on of lucrative air conditioning contracts for UTS Carrier (USA), in the oil-rich United Arab Emirates.
But Willie didn’t stop there – using his spare time to plan and establish contacts he laid the foundations for his own empire back home in Scotland.
With £70,000 of start-up capital and Willie’s life savings, City Refrigeration was born in 1985. The big idea – start a refrigeration company that specialised in installing and servicing cooling systems for the drinks industry.
Willie’s determination and an self-belief, finally led to a breakthrough contract with major brewers Tennent Caledonian and the beginning of the success story. Before long every major brewer in Scotland were onboard, and propelled City Refrigeration into the fast lane as one of the fastest-growing private companies in Europe.
City Refrigeration Expands
In 1996 William Haughey had a stroke of genius that transformed City from being a moderately successful refrigeration business into a hugely successful facilities management company, with clients worldwide.
Following successful maintenance contracts for supermarket giant Asda in Scotland and the North of England, City Refrigeration’s stellar performance resulted in it’s contract being rolled out to every store in the UK.
Hot on their heels, several other major British companies such as House of Fraser, Waterstones and Ladbrokes now also appoint City, and with promising new opportunities opening up in the Middle East and Australia, plus longer-term plans to break into the US market, Willie confidently predicts that turnover will more than double over the next few years.
The considerable success of City Refrigeration has not been achieved with speculative ventures however. A careful approach combined with well cultivated, long-term partnerships with people and companies has been critical to City’s expansion plans.
But despite being a highly successful tycoon, Willie Haughey has always kept his feet on the ground. City Refrigeration’s brand new £23 million headquarters, which was opened by the former Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2009, is located right in the heart of the old Gorbals district, on a site where Willie’s childhood home once stood.
Willie himself still marvels at the amazing co-incidence and chuckles at the thought that a streetwise kid from the Gorbals is now running his worldwide empire from his old backyard!
The recipient of a raft of awards and accolades, including honours from his native city Glasgow, an honorary doctorate by Glasgow Caledonian University and even been decorated by the Queen. The Sunday Times Rich List Dr Haughey OBE estimates his personal fortune at £50 million but, as you would expect, Willie never comments on speculation about his net worth.