The spectacular rise and dramatic fall of Lawrence Jones reads like a slightly giddy work of fiction. But it’s true.
His start was unpromising, raised on a council estate in north Wales. But he went on to found a tech firm - UKFast based in Hulme, south Manchester - that became a giant, and ended up a multi-millionaire ‘business guru’ who regularly appeared on TV, courted by politicians and even the royals.
Today he has finally been unmasked as a sexual predator after a jury convicted him of two counts of rape.
From early life in poverty to £700m wealth
In an interview in 2015, he recalled the moment as a child of six growing up in Denbigh he knew a life of poverty wasn’t for him.
It happened when a shop assistant at discount store Kwiksave in Denbigh snipped his mother's rejected credit card in two, and Jones recalled he said himself. "That's never happening to me."
“I remember my mum having her credit card cut up. The shop assistant made such a big deal of it,” he later said.
“I remember being conscious I would never let that happen. You don’t need to understand money when you are that age. I had it explained to me in such a brutal fashion, it put me ahead of the game.”
His mother Margaret, a teacher, and father Ken, an accountant, went on to run the St Kilda Hotel in Llandudno.
A chorister at St Asaph Cathedral in north Wales, he got a place to study and sing at Durham School in England, aged eight. There he boosted his £5-a-term pocket money to £40 by buying and reselling sweets to other pupils.
He left school with five O-levels and loved to tell how, with £100 in his pocket, he went to Rhyl railway station and bought a ticket to Manchester, determined to make his fortune.
He made a name for himself playing piano in hotels across Manchester, including in the Octagon Lounge of The Midland. He set up the Music Design Company, an entertainment and event organising firm, when he was still a teenager.
At its height, it had more than 240 musicians on the books and was soon bought out by a competitor. He bought his first flat aged 19 and also became a landlord during Manchester’s property boom and rented out a dozen grand pianos he bought.
Even though he had no real interest in the internet, he spotted an opportunity and with wife, Gail, he launched UKFast from their spare room in 1999. It quickly became the largest privately-owned web hosting provider in the UK
Two decades later his family was ranked 203rd in the Sunday Times Rich List with wealth estimated at about £700m and earning him an MBE for services to the UK digital economy in 2015. Among the organisations whose data UKFast hosted was the Cabinet Office, North West Ambulance Service and the NHS.
Jones and Gail reportedly went to Prince Harry and Meghan’s wedding. The pair met Princess Anne, who visited the firm’s Hulme HQ after it received the Princess Royal Training Award.
He was courted by politicians also. He was photographed with then prime minister Boris Johnson at the October 2019 Tory party conference and became a Tory party donor.
Sexual attack allegations emerged
It was a spectacular rise but even then rumours were spreading about the way Jones was behaving, especially around beautiful young women. He was said to be over-familiar, walked around the office topless and would sit with female employees on his lap.
These allegations became public in a report in the Financial Times in October 2019. Jones denied them at the time. A police investigation was already underway by the time of the FT story, and Jones was charged and appeared in court for the first time in January 2021.
More allegations emerged during two trials in 2023, the first of which the media was prevented from reporting until the end of the second trial.
His first trial heard Jones kicked a football around the officer and would kick it towards one woman he was attracted to Jones would also make ‘inappropriate comments’ such as suggesting female staff should engage in anal sex as he didn’t want any more women staff getting pregnant.
One witness, asked about the kind of staff he employed, told the first trial: “A mix. Very confident, beautiful young women. Very beautiful women (who were) perhaps less confident, and some who were easily led, I would say.”
Another witness described how she got on with Jones but he made her feel ‘uncomfortable’ when he would approach her from behind and rub her shoulders.
But she added she knew he wasn’t ‘interested in me’ as she wasn’t ‘his type’, namely tall, ‘large-breasted and beautiful’.
Now Jones' spectacular rise and dramatic fall are complete after the second jury convicted him of two counts of raping young women at his flat in Salford in the early 1990s. Although the media were not allowed to report it at the at the time, Jones was convicted of sex assault following his first trial in January.
He will be sentenced on December 1.