Tom Bloxham MBE

Tom Bloxham is a multi-award winning developer and co-founder of the pioneering property company Urban Splash. His web site describes him as the least qualified board member who sold fire extinguishers door to door, studied a degree in politics, and ran a market stall down Affleck's Arcade - That's how it started. He has since appeared on the Sunday Times Rich List. Manchester Gossip Editor Craig Nelson chatted with him on the phone, here's what happened:


I noticed on Twitter today there was a nice tweet that said “Russia needs Urban Splash”, can you elaborate on that?

Somebody just said that and I re tweeted it - but it was quite funny.


Tom, we know you once earned your money as a door to door salesman selling fire extinguisher but is it true your closing technique was to set a briefcase on fire? and if so, how many briefcases did you go through?

It's very true except it was my opening gambit, the attention grabber. What i would do is pour petrol on them which burns at a low temperature so I didn't actually ruin any briefcases, it was a safe way of grabbing peoples attention but more importantly it taught me two lessons, firstly, in order to sell, you have to get to the boss - the only way of doing this is to be nice to secretaries and the security guards, the second lesson i learnt is how to handle rejection, you know the first thing someone thinks in the morning isn't 'Oh I hope someone knocks on my door to sell me a fire extinguisher today' so it taught me how to deal with rejection at an early age. A very important lesson in business.


In your youth you were Affleck's Palace's original poster selling punk fan, do you have a favourite track or special punk moment and have you still got the Jamie Reed collection?

Yes i still have the Jamie Reed posters, I used to give the Forever to friends when they get married, but i stopped doing that, I still have the God save the Queen Original.

My favourite punk band was probably The Jam, I saw them at youth clubs and other places, I have fond punk memories.

Many of the properties you’ve built, converted or adapted have appeared on tv and in the movies, including,  Poirot at Morecambe's Midland Hotel, Shelagh Delaney’s Taste Of Honey and now there’s rumours of Urban Splash moving into Weatherfields Coronation Street... It must be good to see your developments on T.V and on the big screen?

Well those were all fimed before i had anything to do with them, but what i do like is when i see our new developments in particular those in Castlefield that were once used as the backdrop for gruesome murders and rapes, they were very dark and ominous places, yet since Urban Spash moved in film companies now choose to use them as the backdrop for posh celebrity lifestyles, that sinister feeling's all gone, swept away with the Timber Yards.


Do you live in Manchester?

Yes, I live in a very nice Urban Splash apartment.


How do you relax after a heated board meeting?

I very rarely get heated at board meetings, we use debate and consensus rather than shouting.

I like to relax by going out around town, going down to the pub, hanging out with family and my mates, I love watching Man Utd, I like The Arts particularly visual arts and I love to Ski.

What's your favourite tipple?

A nice glass of dry white burgundy.


Apart from meeting the Queen when you received your MBE, who’s the most famous person you’ve met and how did it come about?

I've been fortunate enough to meet lots of famous people like Richard Branson (Virgin Boss), HRH Prince Charles, Nelson Mandela and many Prime Ministers.


How did meeting Nelson Mandela come about?

I met Nelson Mandela through Richard Branson, we were invited to help with the opening a University for Entrepreneurs in South Africa. I lent my support...


What do you draw inspiration from?

I love buildings, seeing really good buildings, going to visit buildings that adopt different ideas. I Love seeing great art, Love meeting successful people; they always inspire me, i get inspiration from all kinds of things, every day i like to learn something new.


As Manchester's most influential property developer, would you say you prefer converting old buildings or new build developments?

I was converting cotton mills 20 years ago and have no ambitions to return to that, I love a new challenge, in particular - turning around run down areas like New Islington, big old factories interest me, like Fort Dunlop, the Parkhill Estate in Sheffield is now wonderful, each development brings its own new challenges and also new rewards.

"When people ask me what's my favourite building, I'll always answer 'The next one"

Do you get excited when you see things like Dubai's 'The World' complex?

I'm excited by Dubai's ambition and Sheikh Mohammed's vision and commitment, in the past if you wanted to travel from Europe to the Far East you would have to stop at somewhere like Tehran but political turmoil has provided great opportunity for Dubai, he first built an Airline then created tourist attractions like Jumiera Beach and Palm Islands, he's put Dubai on the map changing it from a sleepy cove, however, i would say that i'm not inspired by the importation of western culture, it's big, it's vulgar, and it's harsh - I'd prefer they built on Dubai's intrinsic culture.


I lived in Egypt's capital city Cairo for a year and that helped me as a person to really appreciate the wealth of culture the Middle East has to offer, much more so that the western world, would you agree?

Yes, Cairo is a fantastic city, full of culture and depth where as Dubai feels somewhat shallower and imported.


Where's your favourite place in the world?

Manchester I love, also the south of France and high up on a mountain top.


Tom, it's a pleasure to speak with you, thanks for spending time with Manchester Gossip - final question from us, Daddy or Chips? (ref: Daddy Sauce Tv Advert & Urban Splash's Chips Building).

Well i don't watch T.V. but i'd say Chips! Unless your referencing my father - then i'd say Daddy.


As well as steering Urban Splash through the many ups and recent downs of business, Tom now advises the government on buildings and is Chancellor of Manchester University. Tom was awarded an MBE for services to architecture and urban regeneration in 1999.


To learn more about Tom and his company see
Follow Tom on Twitter

Writers / Contributors: