Interview: Sir Peter Ogden

Serial entrepreneur Sir Peter Ogden has made his millions through banking and IT, but has still found the time to launch energy recruitment outfit Spencer Ogden, which has just opened its first office in the Gulf

He has been knighted for his services to education through his charitable trust and can claim credit for founding Europe’s biggest computer services company, but just don’t call Peter Ogden “Sir”.

“No, I hate it, it’s embarrassing sometimes,” the millionaire British businessman and philanthropist says when Arabian Business asks whether to use the title bestowed on him in 2005.

However, at 65, the respected entrepreneur, sailing and motorsport enthusiast and current leaseholder of the Channel Island of Jethou is nonetheless grateful for the recognition.

“It’s nice to have the honour, but you can’t get too carried away with it,” he muses.

Harvard-educated, the son of a co-op worker forged a successful career in investment banking both in the UK and US with Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley, eventually becoming a managing director at the latter at the relatively young age — in banking terms anyway — of 40.

However, driven by the fear that he might one day be tossed aside by an “up-and-coming tyke” and wanting to take control of his destiny, Ogden quit his high-paying, high-flying job in 1981 and joined forces with fellow Harvard alumnus Philip Hulme to start IT company Computacenter, which today is Europe’s largest computer services company with 13,000 employees and a group turnover of £3.07bn ($5.11bn) in 2013.

Ogden, whose wealth was listed at £250m ($416.17m) in The Sunday Times Rich List 2013, subsequently also co-created the financial software and data company Dealogic in 1983, while he also co-founded with John Britten and former Formula One driver Jonathan Palmer MotorSport Vision, which operates a number of UK racing venues and runs several championships.

But when asked about the early days of Computacenter, Ogden initially struggles to recall the specific details of what was a frenetic time, but offers one stand-out memory of that career change.

“The biggest challenge was I was the managing director of Morgan Stanley at the age of 40 — one of the youngest in a private firm — and then suddenly I had a van, I was delivering computers. I would go along to Credit Suisse and say ‘I am Peter’ and they would say ‘I don’t give a s**** who you are, you’re late with the delivery,” he recalls.

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