Tycoon boss hands workers bonuses worth up to £20,000 as he gives away fortune

A few years ago, Richer Sounds founder Julian Richer was a Tory donor with a private jet, a couple of helicopters and several hundred ­million pounds to his name.

Now he’s apolitical, uses his bus pass to get about, backs more than 400 charities and is on a mission to take on the bad bosses ruining the good name of business.

Until 2019, for example, he owned 100% of the TV and hi-fi firm he founded when he was just 19.

But then he decided it’s time to make things a little more equal in the workplace – announcing to staff that he was handing them control of the company.

The unusual chief executive transferred 60% of his shares into a trust fund to be run on behalf of the store’s staff.

More than that, he also handed them all a bonus – worth £1,000 for each year they’ve worked for Richer Sounds.

The average payout was £8,000, but some workers had been with the firm for more than 20 years – meaning they had a very hefty bonus indeed.

© Rex Features Julian Richer

Richer Sounds was founded in 1978, and now has more than 50 stores across the UK.

Owned by its founder, it’s always been one of the more forward-looking companies in terms of how it treats its staff.

Zero-hours contracts are banned and the Living Wage is a company policy.

Staff also get pretty amazing perks.

One is that they get the use of free holiday accommodation from dozens of properties owned by Richer Sounds in locations such as Amsterdam, Paris and Venice.

Every year – pandemic aside – more than 70% of Richer Sounds staff use one of these free holiday homes. It also has a ‘helping hand’ fund for when staff get into any financial trouble.

© WireImage MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – AUGUST 22: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Julian Richer of Ten Millennia performs live and signs copies of their new album ‘Love Won’t Wait’ during an instore session at HMV Manchester on August 22, 2018 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Shirlaine Forrest/WireImage)

Richer also insists on getting a weekly update on all his staff at every one of the firm’s 53 stores.

These list any members of staff with mental or physical health issues, or who has had a close loved one die.

Many then get a phone call from Richer personally.

Richer calls himself an ‘ethical capitalist’ – and has even written a book with the same title.

It’s clear his values are more aligned with the left than many other chief executives.

In a previous interview with The Mirror, Richer said: “Our society is in an awful place at the moment,” he says. “I think the inequality, the injustice, the austerity is terrible.

“Fourteen million below the poverty line, including four million children, and four million of those in work – that’s a disgrace.

“Three million homes for social housing needed. We are locking 30,000 asylum seekers up every year without judge or jury. It is outrageous.”

Richer Sounds also gives 15% of profits to charity and makes a point of paying its suppliers – and the taxman – transparently and on time.

Richer, who was once worth £160million according to the Sunday Times Rich List, was born in 1959 in London. His dad was a businessman, and his grandparents refugees from pogroms in what is now Eastern Europe.

After a spell in private school, Richer opened the first Richer Sounds in a little shop next to London Bridge station when he was just 19.

Then the chain opened in Stockport, then Birmingham, Leeds, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Liverpool.

The Richer Sounds website said: “Our business is founded on the ethical principles of being decent, honest and truthful and hopefully runs through everything we do,” the Richer Way, section of the company site reads.”

Richer thinks he has created the template for responsible capitalism and now he wants other firms to follow his example.

Handing over control of the company to the workforce was not only the “right thing to do” – he now also sleeps better at night, he says.

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