A great Guy

Philip Nicholas

An entrepreneur in Sri Lanka

John Pollock
Friday December 31, 2004
The Guardian

Four years ago Philip Nicholas, who has died, aged 53, in the tsunami that hit Sri Lanka’s remote, beautiful east coast, visited Arugam bay on that shore.Because of that Millenmium visit, the York University philosophy graduate, sometime Middle Temple barrister, and onetime jail inmate, decided to set up a computer business in Colombo, to mirror the one that he ran in Britain.

He also did pro-bono legal work in Arugam bay, a surfer’s paradise in a region that had suffered enormous deprivation during the Sri Lankan civil war. Phil helped stimulate a renaissance in the region; the website that he created brought many new tourists to the area.

In 1984, Phil had been sentenced to eight years in prison for drug offences. While incarcerated, he had used his training to help other prisoners, and also set up a jail rock band. Thoughtful and extremely well-read, he despised the waste of talent that he saw in prison, deciding that criminal endeavour was often an entrepreneurial choice for those without the means, contacts or knowledge to prosper in the legitimate economy. This generated an anger that fuelled what became his life’s work.On release, after serving nearly six years, he began to build a business in London’s east end that, as he said, employed the unemployable, and showed that almost anyone could thrive, provided that they had encouragement. His multi-million pound turnover computer operation gave a real chance to dozens of local kids, all of whom had failed at school.

Phil was a radical; he saw the main benefit of success as providing a platform from which to castigate other companies for their failure to invest in people at the bottom of the heap. After a successful five years, a complex fraud by a business partner bankrupted the enterprise. But soon after that, Phil started a new computer business.

Born in Guildford, Phil graduated from York University in the early 1970s. He entered the Middle Temple to become a barrister. His outstanding mind was evident in his grasp of the notoriously difficult tort laws, but his restless spirit sent him in to cab driving, which he relished for its supply of entertaining stories. These he subsequently exaggerated to superb comic effect. Then came prison.

When Phil started his new computer enterprise, it was soon supplemented by the Sri Lankan element. He was most keen to employ Sri Lankans who, like his Londoners, had no qualifications but plenty of enthusiasm.

Dozens benefited from this approach and his company expanded rapidly. He was also generous in helping others, privately funding several people to create micro-businesses.

Phil was an optimist with a passion for living. He was happiest at Arugam bay, which is where he died.

His sister survives him.

A?A? Philip Ralph Nicholas, entrepreneur, born November 28 1951; died December 26 2004

sent in by Google alerts April, 2007 for some reason

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