Evening Standard

As Sir Terence Matthews, who owns Celtic Manor, put it to me: “If you want a winning team, you don’t want four Tiger Woods. They would kill each other.”

This reflects the experience that Matthews has acquired over the last 40 years creating nearly 90 technology companies that earned him the title of the principality’s so-called first billionaire.

Early days: Sir Terence Matthews prepares to get to work on Celtic Manor’s Twenty Ten Ryder Cup course in 2004. Image courtesy of Evening Standard

“All but six of the companies I have started have been successful,” he says. “Ask me why? Because I have my formula which has worked. I recruit new, bright, educated graduates. Not necessarily the ones with the highest marks.

“I am looking for their ability to work together, like a team of horses. If you take a heavy horse, it can pull 4000lbs. If I had four horses, how much can they pull? You would say 16,000lbs.

Wrong. It’s 30,000. The secret is they work as a team and that is a different ball game.”

Surprisingly, the 67-year-old does not play golf. He claims to have had a hole in one at the Royal Ottawa Golf Club 10 years ago but that was “luck”, he says.

“No, I don’t play golf because it takes too long,” he adds. “A game of golf is four hours.”

His sporting loves are ice hockey for its speed and rugby. “Being brought up in Wales it was woven into the fabric of society, a great hooligans’ game played by gentlemen,” he says.

Although he has never played the Ryder Cup course, he has warned Montgomerie of the 15th hole. “It is the most difficult,” he reveals. “You can’t see the green. I told him the best way is to go over the trees but, if you miss, you end up in the stream. Colin just laughed.”

Despite the millions he spent to buy Celtic Manor, Matthews can do nothing about the unforgiving weather — play was suspended this morning because of a waterlogged course.

He cannot decide who will triumph on Sunday. “The captains are so different. Colin is a persuader, Corey is a penaliser. Sometimes in life the persuader wins, sometimes the penaliser.”

But what he is certain about is what makes money. And building Celtic Manor, with one of the courses designed by Montgomerie himself, was, says Matthews, purely business.

Under way: Lee Westwood tees off at Sir Terence Matthews’ rain-lashed Celtic Manor course today. Image courtesy of Evening Standard

“The resorts are like an extension of my home,” he adds. “But they have to be profitable. I have invested nearly £50million in the Ryder Cup course and I shall get it back over time.

Wherever I go, Beijing, Shanghai, Delhi, Singapore, Sydney, Rome or Paris, everybody knows the Ryder Cup is at the Celtic Manor. You couldn’t ask for better visibility.”

He is also well aware of the importance of golf. “A large number of people I do business with like golf. At the executive level, a very high proportion treat golf as part and parcel of doing business.”

In addition to Celtic Manor, he has a similar property within five minutes of his home in Ottawa, one of which stages the Canadian Seniors Tour.

But, for all his talk of the profits he will make from Celtic Manor, his decision to purchase the property was a wonderful sort of home-coming.

In 1969, Matthews, a 26-year-old radio engineer working for the Post Office, went on holiday to Toronto to visit his uncle and stayed on. He was offered a job earning three times his Post Office wage and then, with the help of £2450 from the Bank of Nova Scotia, he started a business with a Brit who had migrated from Bexhill.

But, when in 1980 he heard that Manor House, the maternity home where he was born, was boarded up and being sold in an auction, he decided to put in a bid and secured the property for £270,000.

He has since spent £125m converting it into a three-course resort and even stayed in the room where he first emerged into the world.

After four decades in Canada, he confesses that he cannot say whether his heart lies across the Atlantic or in Wales, but developing Celtic Manor involved a lot of Valley pride.

However, the Ryder Cup will not tempt Matthews to buy sporting glory by acquiring a football club.

“Why should I do that? Do they make any money? I do not want the publicity. The best thing in life is to have some money in your pocket which no one knows about.”

Easy sentiments for a man with Matthews’ bank balance and whoever wins on Sunday, he says: “I shall raise a glass of Bordeaux to them and think of the next foursome of graduates to recruit for my next company.”


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