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AD Industry News
Manchester Evening News, May 15th 2007

Mike Newton – A Soaring Success

Last month the Manchester Evening News ran a special feature on Mike Newton, racing driver and CEO of AD Group. This is a slightly edited version of that feature, with thanks to the Manchester Evening News for their permission to reproduce it here.

Mike Newton is rather proud of the new addition to his fleet of corporate jets. AD Aviation, which is part of his AD Group portfolio of companies, has just taken delivery of a new Citation Eagle II.

The eight-seater aircraft takes the number of planes in the AD Aviation fleet to three, and will now allow the region's executives to travel as far afield as Africa, the Middle East and Near Asia. The demand for private jet travel has ‘taken off’ in recent years on the back of security alerts, lengthy delays at airports, and an appreciation of “travelling in style”. Mike, who established the business in 1998 after finding that his companies were regularly having to charter jets in order to respond quickly to customer demands, says that AD Aviation, based at Liverpool John Lennon Airport, is meeting the needs of the corporate market, and satisfying the requirements for this growing trend in executive travel. "It is not about flying rock stars to Cannes," he quips, "but providing a cost-effective, secure, convenient and flexible way to travel for the region's executives. The bill for eight Club Class tickets to Nice would be more than £8,000, but to charter one of our aircraft would cost around £6,000.”

He also insists that it’s not just about the expense, but it is also about the time spent travelling. “A single European meeting could take two days of executive time with scheduled flights, whereas we can fly to more than one country in a day," he says. But what about the cost to the environment? Surely whizzing executives around the skies can't be of great benefit to the planet? Mike’s response is to say that it’s important to keep things in perspective. “All aviation traffic counts for less that two per cent of the world’s carbon footprint, while private charter is a tiny fraction of that," he says. Mike admits that there is a certain 'boys and their toys' element about the most recent additions to his portfolio, but he is also one of the region's most successful businessmen who, with only a few thousand pound investment, made his fortune from closed circuit television.

Born in Ashton-under-Lyne, Mike took a computer science degree at Manchester University. While studying he was approached by ComputerBar Security Systems to help develop a device to keep a tally on the amount of alcohol dispensed from bar optics. It proved to be an impossible task and he says that even now nobody has managed to come up with an effective solution, but the budding entrepreneur had spotted an opportunity in the region's snooker clubs. “I approached the company with the idea of developing an electronic charging unit for snooker clubs,” he explains. “In the early 1980s there was a big explosion in the sport and those who went to the clubs gave their names to the person behind the bar who then kept a tally of how long they were at the table. It was fairly time consuming but my device kept a record as soon as the lights came on at the table and people then paid at the end.” It was a simple concept but seemingly not attractive enough to tempt the firm behind the bar optic idea, so Mike decided to launch it himself.

After 'begging and borrowing' around £6,000, he founded his first company, Dedicated Micros (DM) in 1982. That was 25 years ago and Mike went on to develop a digital multiplexer, a device for recording and playing back video footage. His invention was to evolve into what we now know as CCTV, and DM has subsequently grown into the world leader in its field.

Mike says the secret lies in the ability to second-guess the market and be at the forefront of innovation. In 1997, when DM was a thriving £29m enterprise with a number of international offices, Mike decided to sell a 36 per cent stake to venture capitalists 3i. At the time of the deal, Mike also formed AD Group as a home for the parts of the business that 3i didn't want. Those elements included DM’s aviation technology division, which produced in-plane CCTVs, and a number of products that allowed for remote monitoring for use on school buses, police cars and public transport. 3i paid around £20m for the stake in DM, but according to Mike, made "rather a mess of the business" and four years later he bought it back for a mere £2m. “When the business was sold in 1997, the growth targets were excellent. However, 3i seemed to think that there was no potential to grow the business beyond the £30m mark. By the time I bought it back, turnover was down from £29m to £17m. However, a year later it was up to £40m and now has sales of more than £80m.”

This year AD Group celebrates its tenth anniversary, employs 600 people and has a turnover of around £85m. The group incorporates a multitude of companies whose products are at the cutting edge of innovation. Mike says the next big growth market is in image analysis and the group is currently working on CCTV technology which, once installed in retail outlets, will be able to recognise known shoplifters and alert security staff as soon as they enter the shop. Mike is driven by the desire to innovate and, at the age of 47, has no intention of slowing down. “I tried that back in 1997, when the venture capitalists came in, and look what happened then!” he laughs.

Mike, who is married with 10-year-old twins, certainly enjoys life to the full. The Sunday Times Rich List recently suggested that Mike's wealth was estimated to stand at some £385m, making him the 206th richest person in Britain. While he concedes that the figure is pretty much near the mark, he says it should all be taken with a pinch of salt. “Could I go and write a cheque for £385m?” he asks. “Could I heck! It is all quite artificial.” It is certainly not a case of all work and no play for Mike Newton, however, and as visitors to this website know, he enjoys racing his MG Lola EX264 at circuits around the world and, along with his team mates at RML, Thomas Erdos and Andy Wallace, won his class at Le Mans in 2005 and 2006. Mike is also a qualified pilot and regularly flies AD Aviation's aircraft around the skies of Britain and Europe


Name: Mike Newton
Age: 47
First job: Technical Director, ComputerBar Security systems (Post education), various jobs during education from tyre fitter, fuel pump cashier to software engineer
How long is your working day? As long as it takes - sometimes into the next day.
What is the worst mistake you ever made? Trusting a smiling venture capitalist.
What is your best achievement? Winning Le Mans LMP2 class twice in the MG Lola EX264
Where is your favourite restaurant and why? All the best Manchester ones have closed!
What was the last book you read? Icebound by Dean Koontz
What is parked in your driveway? At the moment? A Volvo V70R, a Bentley Turbo, an Audi, Lotus Esprit, MG Midget . . . and an Iveco 7.5t truck.
Which celebrity would you like to be stuck on a desert island with and why? Liz Hurley – looks great, resourceful, good chance of getting rescued because someone will come looking for her.

Click here to view Manchester Evening Telegraph

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