• Donnington Grove

Sir John Madejski talks to Buzz

Chairman of Reading FC, Sir John Madejski insists that everyone can be successful as long as they find what they’re good at and try their best. He spoke to us about his life and what advice he has for others.

Growing up

Sitting in a cafe in the spectacular Madejski Stadium, it’s hard to imagine the man behind it all came from such a troublesome background. Sir John Madejski however, believes his difficult childhood may have been fundamental determined attitude in life and his continuing success.

“In my case I had challenges with my background but I don’t think that my issues were any more different from most peoples. I think you’ll find a lot of people who are successful have struggled emotionally in some way.”

He added “I think because of my background I don’t have role models and never did because I probably never trusted anyone.”

On the road to success

Sir John began his success when he went to America and sold English cars such as Rolls Royces, Aston Martins and Jaguars. His first key business achievement came when he purchased a Victorian house in East Reading which he converted into bedsits, “I lived on the ground floor and I let the rest out to students.”

The founder of Auto Trader said determination and stubbornness were just some of the traits that contributed to his overall success.

“I’ve always had an eye to try to do something entrepreneurial. I don’t see myself as successful. I still have the fear of failure and I still want to make sure things are going well.”

With 18 companies under his belt, Sir John is a very busy man and when he does manage to take a break he enjoys socialising and visiting his favourite restaurant The Leatherne Bottel in Goring-on-Thames, Berkshire.

Family and loss

Sir John described his mother’s death as one of the most moving moments in his life and said it was worrying how you take your family for granted. With two daughters of his own, he said their “determination and self reliance” were what he admired most
about them.

“They’re really sensible young ladies. Yes, I’ve given them a good education but they’ve rewarded me by both going to university and both getting degrees.”

Despite this, Sir John believes university isn’t for everyone.
“I think it’s sad actually that we’ve got this predominant belief that everyone should be expected to go (to university). Everybody has a hidden talent somewhere and it’s up to people to find out what it is. If there’s more of that going on then the world would be a happier place. Telling someone to do lots of examinations and go to university is not necessarily the key to everything in life.”

Next steps

Sir John isn’t planning to add any more companies to his portfolio and may even be looking to downsize in future. He adds “I’m getting to an age whereby I don’t want too much responsibility.”
We finished by asking Sir John what legacy he would like to leave behind… “I’d like to think I put more in than I took out. The main thing is to do your best and enjoy it. “

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