Tom Hunter is a Scottish businessman, serial entrepreneur, and philanthropist. After graduating from Strathclyde Business School, Hunter set up his first business venture with a 5,000 GBP loan from his father and a 5,000 GBP loan from the bank. He started selling trainers from the back of a van and went on to build Europe’s largest independent sports retailer in the sports division, subsequently selling it to JJB Sports for 290 million GBP in 1998.
Hunter set up his private equity business, West Coast Capital, in 2001. West Coast Capital is the private investment vehicle founded and funded by Hunter and his family in 2001. He notes, “Our capital is our own, as are our decisions. We invest in retail (brands, bricks and mortar, and ecommerce), property, and technology, but primarily we invest in people. Importantly to us all, we know our returns will, over time, be invested for the common good through our founder’s philanthropy, The Hunter Foundation.“
To date, Hunter’s foundation has invested in excess of 50 million GBP into social causes. He was knighted in 2005 for services in entrepreneurship and philanthropy and was awarded the prestigious Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy in 2013.
Endowed by Hunter, the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship, an academic department within Strathclyde Business School, is one of the most important social investments made by The Hunter Foundation. Hunter’s support of the center is based on the simple premise that education changes people’s lives—their aspirations, their sense of purpose, their skill base, and what they can ultimately achieve. The Hunter Centre is focused on the study, research, and encouragement of entrepreneurship within Scotland and is committed to engaging in and drawing from world-class research to inform the design and delivery of a growing portfolio of useful learning experiences offered to “Strathclyders” (students, staff, and alumni) as well as to the wider entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Hunter supports and is a key ambassador for Entrepreneurial Spark, a nonprofit social enterprise and the world’s largest free business accelerator offering business support to startup companies. Entrepreneurial Spark worked with Hunter and the Scottish government to develop the 1 million GBP EDGE fund for entrepreneurs in Scotland. The scheme has also secured a three-year sponsorship package with The Royal Bank of Scotland, including funds to send aspiring entrepreneurs to Babson College in the U.S. This year, the organization makes its first international move into India.
On a more international scale, since 2005, Hunter has been working in partnership with the Clinton Foundation. The resulting project, the Clinton Hunter Development Initiative (CHDI), is spurring economic development in Africa in ways that can be sustained and scaled up by local governments and communities long into the future.
Hunter has drawn great inspiration from his hero, Andrew Carnegie, and often quotes from Carnegie’s book The Gospel of Wealth, the central premise being that “a man who dies rich, dies disgraced.” Hunter has publicly vowed not to die a rich man.