The Secret Millionaire

February 04, 2011

Businessman Jeff Pearce hid his illiteracy until middle age – but learning to read and write was the making of him

Jeff Pearce prefers being called an “adventurer” to an “entrepreneur”. He is the short, ginger-haired action hero of Liverpool retail who made a fortune selling £1 leather trousers to hard-up scousers in the 1980s, then lost his millions, and remade them — playing polo with the Royal Family, working as a stunt rider for Richard Gere and sailing the Atlantic in the meantime.

His name is not actually Jeff. Pearce’s mother changed it to hide the shameful secret with which he has lived most of his life — that he could neither read nor write. Pearce could never spell his real name, James. For years he would come home from school and sit with his mother writing “J-A-M”. Eventually she said, “You know what — it’s Jeff.”

“I felt like I was living my life under false pretences. Because really you sho… [more]

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