Brought up near Saffron Walden in Essex, Sir Charles Dunstone attended Uppingham School. He had intended to do a business degree at Liverpool University but enjoyed his job as a computer salesman for NEC during his year off too much, and his plans to go to university were abandoned.
When Dunstone transferred from selling computers to mobile phones, he realised that corporate clients got good deals and were well looked after, but no one was catering for small businesses, the self-employed and Joe Public - for whom mobile phones would be the most useful. And that's where The Carphone Warehouse (CPW) came in.
Dunstone built the business on the premise that what the company stands for is more important than what it sells; in this case, a promise of great customer service and the ability to deliver 'simple, impartial advice' in the ever-complex world of mobile phone purchasing. In a sector where the product was all that customers cared about, The Carphone Warehouse was established to make customers realise that it is equally important to buy your phone from the right people.
With the same principles of impartial advice and unbeatable customer service, The Carphone Warehouse has expanded beyond the UK into nine countries in Europe and today has over 2,400 stores across Europe and is continuing to grow its distribution base.
In July 2000 the company floated on the London Stock Exchange and based on an issue price of 200p, the company was valued at approximately £1.7 billion.
In November 2002, The Carphone Warehouse Group acquired Opal Telecom, a corporate fixed line, voice telecommunications network provider. The acquisition provided the opportunity to launch a cost effective residential fixed line service to compete with BT. The company's landline service, TalkTalk was launched in February 2003 with the unique service proposition that all customers talk to each other for free, forever.
In April 2006, TalkTalk launched the UK's first ever free broadband service changing the broadband market place forever. Through both acquisition (Tele2's UK business and OneTel in 2005 and AOL in 2006) and organic growth, TalkTalk became the fastest growing telecoms business in the UK.
In May 2009, The Carphone Warehouse acquired Tiscali's UK operations for £236million making TalkTalk the UK's largest residential broadband provider in the UK with 4.1 million subscribers.
In November 2006 the company opened its first stores in North America as part of a joint venture with Best Buy Co., Inc under the Best Buy Mobile brand. The venture also brought a home computer service business to the UK under the Geek Squad brand in 2007. The group now has 1,070 Best Buy Mobile store within stores and 77 standalone stores in locations across North America.
In 2008, following a £1.1billion investment from Best Buy Inc, and the formal separation of the Telecoms division from CPW's Retail and Distribution business, The Carphone Warehouse created a new European consumer electronics company in partnership with the international retailer.
On March 29th, 2010 The Carphone Warehouse and TalkTalk separated to form two new holding companies, TalkTalk (which will be the holding company for the fixed line voice and broadband telecommunications business) and CPW plc (which will comprise a 50 per cent interest in the Best Buy Europe Group, a 47.5 per cent interest in Virgin Mobile France, a property portfolio consisting of four freehold properties, and a number of minority investments in other businesses).
Dunstone became Chairman of both TalkTalk and CPW PLC and remains actively involved in both businesses.
Dunstone remains passionate about his original aims; to put the customer first and to ensure that all employees share in the company's success. He is also Chairman of the Princes Trust. In December 2005, he was voted The Daily Telegraph's Business Person of the Year.