In 2000, former Goldman Sachs banker Tim Steiner decided to quit the finance world and get into retail. The decision paid off. As the founding CEO of the Ocado Group, Steiner is now sat at the head of a multinational corporation generating over $2 billion in annual revenue. His own take-home pay is just as substantial – last year, he made headlines as the UK’s highest-paid CEO after being awarded a mammoth bonus of £54 million. To find out more about the man behind Ocado’s success, read on for 10 things you didn’t know about Tim Steiner, former Goldman Sachs banker.
1. He co-founded Ocado in 2000
Steiner was born in Highgate, North London, and educated at Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School. After graduating with an accountancy degree from Manchester University in 1992, he landed a position at Goldman Sachs as a bond trader. By 2000, he was getting tired of sticking around Goldman waiting to be made partner. The dotcom boom was at its peak, and while he knew precious little about the grocery industry, he decided there was an opportunity to capitalize on emerging technologies to herald a return to the old days of home delivery. After convincing two Goldman colleagues, Jonathan Faiman and Jason Gissing, about the potential of his business idea, the trio quit their jobs and launched into their new venture. They originally named the company L.M. Solutions but rebranded in 2002 after deciding that the fruity sounding ‘Ocado’ was a better fit for an online grocer.
2. He’s the last man standing
Of the three founding members to establish Ocado, only one has managed to last the distance: Steiner. Jonathan Faiman left first, leaving his executive position in 2008 and stepping down from the board in 2010 just prior to Ocado’s initial public offering. In 2019, it was reported that Ocado was suing Faiman over allegations that he’d worked with another senior Ocado employee to steal confidential information. The case is still ongoing. Jason Gissing retired from the company under more amicable circumstances in 2014.
3. He’s an OBE
Steiner is a rare proposition: a company founder that’s managed to build a FTSE100 business from the ground up. His achievements haven’t gone unnoticed. In addition to being awarded the title of The Sunday Times’ Business Person of the Year 2018, he’s also won the honor of being awarded an OBE after being named in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in 2016.
4. He’s the highest-paid CEO in the UK
As The Guardian reports, Steiner was named the highest-paid CEO in the UK in 2020 after collecting an end of year bonus of £54 million. The bonus bought his total remuneration for the year to a mammoth £58.7m. Understandably, the payout drew ire from some quarters. In a report from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and the High Pay Centre, it was noted “It would take an average full-time worker approximately eight years to earn what Tim Steiner could earn in one day.”
5. He’s changed Ocado from a retailer to a solutions provider
When Ocado launched in 2000, it was a fairly standard online grocery retailer. Under Steiner’s stewardship, it’s pivoted away from its original business model to become (as it now describes itself) a ‘technology-led, global, software and robotics platform business, with a strong retail heritage’. Its technology and solutions divisions, which provide web and fulfillment technology to other retailers, now generate around 33 percent of the company’s revenue. As the company continues to form new partnerships both in the UK and internationally, its robotics and software solutions are likely to form an ever more integral part of its core business.
6. He divorced in 2016
Steiner shares 4 children with his ex-wife, Belinda. The couple married in Garden Suburb Synagogue in North West London in 1999. Following the couple’s divorce in 2016, Steiner began dating Polish model Patrycja Pyka, who at 32, is two decades Steiner’s junior.
7. He comes from a family of entrepreneurs
Entrepreneurial spirit runs in Steiner’s blood. As The Times reports, his paternal great-grandfather, Henry, ran his own hairdressing salon in Muswell Hill, north London. When his grandfather, Herman, inherited the business, he ended up gaining royal warrants to do the hair of Queen Mary and the make-up of the Queen Mother. His maternal grandfather, Sidney Berk, owned an electronics company and his mother, Linda, is the brains behind the beauty brand Elemis.
8. He splashed out $25 million on a yacht
Steiner’s divorce in 2016 may have forced him to tighten his belt (it’s rumored he had to offload a massive £68m in Ocado shares to cover what turned into a very long and acrimonious court battle), but he’s clearly not been left destitute. In 2019, he stumped up £25 million for a superyacht. Made by legendary Italian boat maker Baglietto, the Silver Fox measures 47.60 meters in length and has a beam of 9.50 feet. It can accommodate up to 12 guests in 6 cabins and has enough room for 9 crew members. Boating is something of a family occupation: prior to its acquisition by Catterton, his family ran Steiner Leisure, the largest operator of cruise ship spas in the world.
9. He’s a multi-millionaire
Steiner made his debut in The Sunday Times Rich List in 2018. At the time, his fortune was estimated to be worth in the region of £130m. Several years and several very big bonuses down the line, that fortune has grown to around £403 million, making him one of the UK’s richest individuals. Considering he’s in line for a $100 million bonus (not including separate bonuses and pay) if he can triple the company’s share price over the next five years, it might not be long before he reaches billionaire status.
10. He’s a polarizing figure
As the Financial Times reports, Steiner is a somewhat controversial figure that tends to polarise opinion. One (we assume former) employee has described him as a “promotional and grandiose” individual who bristles at any criticism of the group’s business model or executive decisions. Others take a different opinion. Co-founder Jason Gissing, for example, has described him as “one of the brightest people I have ever met,” adding that the confidence and self-belief he’s sometimes criticized for are simply essential qualities of being an entrepreneur.