Successful entrepreneurs who quit business for politics

Following Donald Trump’s inauguration on 20 January, Startups reflects on the business owners that have made the leap from CEO to civics…

Do business owners make good politicians? Do they make good presidents?

Well at 5pm on Friday 20 January we started to gain a better idea as serial entrepreneur Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States.

Trump’s rise from business tycoon to political leader has been well documented but, whether you love him or loathe him, the new president’s past entrepreneurial success is undeniable.

An accomplished property entrepreneur, Trump built a number of profitable real estate projects in the Manhattan area in the 1970’s under the Trump Organisation umbrella and went on to open the Grand Hyatt in 1980 – making him the city’s best-known developer.

He continued to invest in a number of properties and later, in 2004, was made star of The Apprentice; which would also see him take the lead in The Celebrity Apprentice spin-off.

While Trump has always had political aspirations – in 1999 he explored running for president with the Reform Party’s nomination and in 2012 he publicly announced he was considering running for president again – his transition from the business world to the political sphere is a fascinating one.

With that in mind, we’ve taken a look back at the UK entrepreneurs that have taken similar paths, shifting from a career in business to a career in politics…

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Lord Heseltine

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The former deputy prime minister had a long career in publishing prior to working under the governments of Margaret Thatcher and John Major. Back in 1957, Heseltine launched Cornerstone Press with business partner Clive Labovitch. The partners split in 1965, with Heseltine renaming his part of the business to Haymarket Press to publish the popular magazine Management Today. The publishing group was rebranded as Haymarket Media Group in 2007.

Margot James

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The current minister for small business, Margot James MP appears to be well-positioned for her role in government. James co-founded PR and consultancy organisation Shire Health Group, launching the business in 1986, and later sold the business to WPP in 2004. James has continued to flirt with enterprise; she works as a mentor for The Prince’s Trust and sits on the court of governors at the London Stock Exchange.

Sajid Javid

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Sajid Javid MP expressed entrepreneurial flair from a young age. At 25, he became the youngest vice-president of Chase Manhattan Bank and, after later joining Deutsche Bank as director in 2000, became managing director of Deutsche Bank just four years on. Javid left Deutsche Bank in 2009 to pursue a career in politics, leaving the world of finance behind to become secretary of state for business, innovation and skills from 2015 to 2016, and now acts as secretary of state for communities and local government.

Philip Hammond

Prior to entering the world of politics, current chancellor of the exchequer Philip Hammond had a diverse background in business. He previously worked as director of nursing home and healthcare business Castlemead and later worked as a business consultant. As partner at consultancy firm CMA, he worked on a number of projects for clients such as the World Bank.

Jeremy Hunt

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Prior to dealing with matters of junior doctors strikes and NHS funding as secretary of state for health, Jeremy Hunt pursued a number of business ventures, with varying levels of success. His first attempt at creating a marmalade export business failed but his next two ventures in publishing and education fared far better. In 1991, he co-founded public relations agency Profile PR, which he later sold his interest in, and went on to co-found in-class UK course specialist Hotcourses – becoming a major client of the British Council. Just this month, Hotcourses was sold to Australian education firm IDP for over £30m and, as Hunt had retained his 48% equity share in the business, he bagged £14m from the sale.

Mark Prisk


Like Trump, Prisk has a background in property ventures. The current minister of state for local housing and government was heavily involved in property and economic development. In the 1990’s he was principal of the Mark Prisk Connection and founder/owner of MP2 consultancy.

And the not-so successful entrepreneurs: Sam Gyimah and Chris Philp

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You may know them as Conservative MPs but Gyimah and Philp also co-founded training and recruitment company Clearstone; which provided training for heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) for the long-term unemployed. The pair founded the company in 2004 but it went into administration just three years later, allegedly owing creditors £4m.

Entrepreneurs who haven’t quit business for politics – just yet

The following entrepreneurs are already beginning to dabble in, or have expressed an interest in, politics. Watch this space…

Simon Franks

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Founder of Redbus, co-founder of LOVFiLM and Startups Awards judge, former city trader Simon Franks acts as an advisor for the Labour party on matters of business, innovation and entrepreneurship. Could a position as Labour MP be on the cards in the future?

Peter Jones CBE

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In an interview with This Morning, following Trump’s presidential victory last November, technology mogul and Dragons’ Den star Jones revealed he “would consider” running for prime minister. He suggested that several of his peers had been telling him “he could do it”. Could Theresa May have some competition on her hands?

Emma Jones MBE

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Last year, the Enterprise Nation founder was made the government’s small business representative with a responsibility to help government find new opportunities for smaller companies, among other duties. Given that Jones has already started to support government in shaping business policy and strategy, could a greater role in politics be next?

Kathryn Parsons MBE


Co-founder and CEO of coding company Decoded, Parsons could well be set to make a move into politics. Why? This week, the government announced it had appointed Parsons, and fellow British entrepreneurs Carolyn McCall, Stephen Carter, and Stuart Quickenden, as non-executive members at the department for business, energy and industrial strategy (BEIS).


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