An enigmatic Tees businessman and the £300m-a-year cable company he built from scratch have been recognised for their charitable work.
Alastair Powell has shunned publicity whilst building Middlesbrough-based Cleveland Cable Company into a global success, employing 600 staff, many of them on Teesside.
And, through the company he and his brother Michael have built into the UK’s largest cable distributor, he has donated huge amount of money to charity – whilst always insisting it all stays on Teesside.
Now Alastair has been recognised for his achievements and generosity with a Teesside Hero Award, with fellow businessman Andy Preston describing him as “a massive local success story”.
Headquartered on Middlesbrough’s Riverside Park but with bases in Dublin and Dubai as well as other areas of England, Cleveland Cable Company employs around 300 staff on Teesside.
Chairman Alastair and chief executive Michael saw the firm’s latest annual profits to April 2017 surge by 144% to £28m on sales of £251m.
Despite his success, Alastair famously does not usually conduct interviews, nor seek publicity.
In a rare interview, he said: “I don’t often stop to think about it but when I take a moment to step back from it all, it still surprises and staggers me how big the company has become.
“The company has grown from just a handful of people when Michael and I started out to a business with a £300m-a-year turnover, employing 600 staff.
“I’m proud to have our head office here on Teesside, meaning the bulk of our wealth and the company’s financial success comes back to the town and area.
“But I’m one person out of 600 – we’ve got such a fantastic team of people, many who’ve worked for Cleveland Cable Company for 30 years or more.
“There’s a massive pool of skilled, dedicated and loyal people who’ve grown with the company almost since day one. They are all instrumental in the company’s ongoing success.”
Whilst also supporting other local charities including Butterwick Hospice and Teesside Family Foundation, Alastair and Cleveland Cable Company are the largest supporters of charitable movement Teesside Philanthropic Foundation, which has raised more than £2.5m over the past seven years to support many of the region’s most disadvantaged families.
Andy Preston, the Foundation’s founder and chairman, nominated Alastair for the award, describing him as “an unsung hero”.
“I’m truly flattered to receive the award on behalf of everyone at Cleveland Cable Company,” said Alastair. “We have never had any other motive in our support for the Foundation other than to ensure money goes to the people who need it most right here on Teesside.
“For me, giving to charities such as the Philanthropic Foundation is about sharing with our fellow Teessiders who need it most some of that success we’ve been fortunate to achieve.
“I’m Middlesbrough born and bred, as is my brother and all my family. We all love our area. We’re very proud of where we come from.
“The Philanthropic Foundation is all about 50 local companies and individuals working together to share their success on their doorstep. For me, that just demonstrates what the people of Teesside are like.
“The Foundation is a 100% Teesside charity. It exists for local people – and we are local people too, so we’re proud to be have involved pretty much from the start.
“I’m completely confident that all our money stays in the area and goes to very deserving causes that wouldn’t otherwise benefit from our money.
“The truth is that if we gave to national charities – even the very good ones – our donations would be totally diluted and would therefore mean little to Teesside.
He added: “It really is an honour to be recognised by others, particularly as we’ve never looked for recognition or accolades.”
Andy Preston said: “Alastair is very much an unsung hero of Teesside.
“He has this almost mystical reputation in that he has created this big, globally successful business and yet nobody really knows anything about him.
“I’ve been fortunate to get to know him over the last few years and I know he would never sing his own praises.
“Despite his success, he’s a very level-headed, down-to-earth, likeable guy. He is clearly very bright and happy to talk but when other people speak he listens.
“The truth is that he and his company have done a huge amount of good with their donations, not only to the Philanthropic Foundation but other local charities too.
“At the same time, he has created hundreds of local jobs while making Cleveland Cable Company an incredible Teesside success story.
“While some people actively seek publicity for their charitable work and business success, which I think is fair enough, Alastair has actively shunned publicity.
“He is a massive Teesside success story on a scale most people don’t realise. He should be scooping all kinds of awards and honours but I don’t think he solicits enough attention to be on the radar for such accolades.
“But he deserves praise and credit for what he has done and achieved on Teesside, so this award was designed to do just that.”