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Meet the man who helped build the Millennium Dome, the new Wembley and London’s famous Gherkin

Martin Ainscough Chairman. Picture Mandy Jones

One of the UK’s most successful entrepreneurs will be revealing the secrets of his success to business professionals in North Wales.

After starting out as a 13 year old Saturday boy helping in the family’s scrap metal business, Martin Ainscough’s rise to the top in creating the biggest crane hire business in Britain has turned him into the stuff of corporate legend.

With an uncanny sense of timing, he sold the company, Ainscough Crane Hire, for a whopping £255 million a year before the 2008 crash.

Far from retiring, he’s now busy at the head of a group of family companies involving his five children – including the pioneering Adventure Parc Snowdonia that has helped revolutionise adventure tourism in North Wales.

He will be the main guest speaker at the Christmas dinner of Wrexham Business Professionals at the town’s Ramada Plaza Hotel on Thursday, November 17.

The group is made up of successful businesses and highly skilled professionals working together to promote regional prosperity and the enterprise and expertise that exists in the region.

Mr Ainscough, 70,  was one of nine children in a Catholic family and was brought up in the village of Wrightington on the outskirts of Wigan.

He had zero interest in academic studies and left school aged 15 without any  qualifications.

What he did have, though, was a razor sharp business brain, bucket loads of determination and a “burning ambition” which he put to use working in the scrap metal company which at that time employed around 30 people.

He said: “I didn’t see any point with carrying on with school because I knew what I wanted to do in my future.

“By the time I was around 18 both my father and my uncle were suffering from ill health so I really got catapulted into the office side, into the management side, along with one of my cousins.

“By the age of 19, I was effectively running the business on a day to day basis.”

After his uncle died, Mr Ainscough’s father sold his share of the business and bought the company’s six cranes which were part of a fledgling crane hire operation.

He said: “Effectively that was owned by my dad for the first nine years of its life until the mid-1980s when he sadly passed away, so the business was taken over by myself and two of my brothers, James and Brendan.

“We then went on and built that business up. Broadly speaking by the end of the 80s we were the biggest crane hire company in the North West. “By the end of the 90s we were the biggest crane hire company in the country.

“By the end of the 90s we were a £30m turnover business doing about a £1m profit and within five years we were at an £80m turnover making £20m profit. That’s what really made the big difference.

“The profitability had gone through the roof and by then we were unassailable as a business in the country. We had all the national contracts and our nearest competitor had fewer than a 100 cranes.

“We employed more than 1,000 people in a national network of 25 depots across the UK, with a total of more than 500 cranes.

“The biggest crane I had cost around £3 million and was able to lift a thousand tonnes. It was higher than Blackpool Tower, which is around 180 metres tall.”

The upshot was that Ainscough Crane Hire had a part in all the major landmark developments at the time – from the Millennium Dome, to the new Wembley and London’s distinctive Gherkin building.

After putting the company on the market,  a bidding frenzy drove up the selling price to over a quarter of billion.

“That was a fantastic day obviously. Myself and my two brothers left the business with our big cheques.

“I’ve got five children and I put money in trusts for my kids and, aged 55, instead of having  the good grace to retire I decided that I wanted to set business up with my kids, which is basically what I did,” said Mr Ainscough

As a result, the Ainscough Group includes a diverse range of companies, everything from tool hire, to erecting wind turbines and an equestrian centre.

In 2015 they transformed adventure tourism when they opened as Surf Snowdonia, creating the world’s first inland surf lagoon in the picturesque surroundings of the Conwy Valley headed by son Andy Ainscough.

A total of £25 million of investment has seen the centre add a host of other high-octane activities, including paddle boarding, ziplines, climbing and indoor caving.

As a result, the centre was rebranded as Adventure Parc Snowdonia.

Guests can slow down and unwind at the 106-room Hilton Garden Inn which opened last year and also has a luxury spa overlooking the lagoon.

They are now seeking investment to help further develop the park after “unexpected costs” and a mechanical glitch in the wave technology.

Mr Ainscough added: “I don’t think ever in my wildest dreams I envisaged the level of success we were fortunate enough to attain.

“It’s purely and simply that I was ambitious, I loved what I did. I was very excited by it and I still am, and I just loved doing business and I loved giving good service. I love working with people.

“Another thing selling out allowed me to do was set up a charitable trust. I’ve been fortunate to have given away many millions of pounds, which I’m very proud of, to different charities.”

Ian Edwards, a senior member of Wrexham Business Professionals and a director of Allington Hughes, said: “We’re delighted that Martin will be sharing his incredible story with us.

“His many business successes are an inspirational example of what can be achieved when you have great ideas and the drive and determination to see them through.

“I am sure he will have some fascinating insights and I that our audience will be able to apply some of those lessons to make their own businesses even more successful.”