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The Secret Millionaire

Season 1 2006 - 2008

  • 2006-11-30T02:00:00Z on Channel 4
  • 50 mins
  • 5 hours, 0 mins
  • United States
  • English
  • Documentary, Reality

Each week a different multi-millionaire searches for people whose lives he or she can change for the better. Each of our modern-day philanthropists must guarantee to give away thousands of pounds of their own money. For ten days, the millionaires leave their wealthy lifestyle behind and go undercover to live in some of the UK’s toughest areas. They conceal their true identities and immerse themselves in communities with the aim of finding those people that they think deserve their help. On the last day of their visit, they reveal their secret and write their cheques.

6 episodes

1x01 Ben Way

  • Series Premiere

    2006-11-30T02:00:00Z — 50 mins

Eleven years ago, aged just 16, Ben Way made a life changing business deal worth 25 million pounds, making him one of Britain’s youngest self-made millionaires. Six years later, he’d lost the lot. Now, aged 26, Ben has successfully rebuilt his fortune. But, now fully aware of how tough life can be when you hit rock bottom, he wants to find others who deserve a helping hand. “I’ve been incredibly lucky to have ended up on this side of the tracks. I see it a bit like Russian roulette. My life played Russian roulette with me. Fortunately I won and some people haven’t and I can find those people and change their lives.” Tonight, Ben says goodbye to his private plane, his central London bachelor pad and his fine dining to live on one of the toughest estates in London. He travels just seven miles across town to Hackney – one of the city’s most deprived areas – notorious for gang culture, violent crime and where nearly 60 percent of the kids grow up in single parent families. For ten days he works as a volunteer youth worker at the Pedro Club alongside its inspirational manager, Ufu, who greets Ben by saying, “welcome to murder mile.” During his stay, Ben lives in a room in a shared flat on the local estate.

1x02 John Elliott

  • 2006-12-07T02:00:00Z — 50 mins

62-year-old John Elliott from Bishop Auckland - a life-long supporter of the Conservative Party and one of the richest people in England. He employs more than three hundred people at his factory making water coolers. John’s now one of the largest suppliers in the world, but life did not begin this way. He grew up in poverty two miles from where he lives now. His father died when he was a small child and his mother raised three children single-handedly. This upbringing has left John with a real sense of what it is like to have nothing and he never takes his wealth for granted. “I did at one point”, says John, “think it may be good to get rid of it and start all over again, then there would be the real pressure of doing it again. A bit like getting to the end of the fish and chip queue and then going to the end and starting again. That would take some strength wouldn’t it?” John is incredibly charitable, giving away thousands each year to different causes. But now he wants a more hands on approach to giving and feels he wants to get as close as possible to the people who really need it. “It’s very easy to write cheques out for organisations… but it is important to get out there and identify people with real needs”. This is why he has agreed to live undercover for ten days - leaving his lifestyle and even his identity behind to live in a small rented flat on the equivalent of state benefits in Kensington, Liverpool, one of the poorest parts of Britain. According to a Government report, the social and economic deprivation there is severe and deep rooted. Its residents have a 50% greater chance of dying earlier than the average person in England. But John does not believe in spending or giving away money for the sake of it. He is very careful not to be wasteful or casual with his giving. So how easy will he find it to identify individuals who he feels are really deserving of his assistance? And, when faced with the realisation that he may have to widen his net to find deserving beneficiaries and look in places he would never normally consider worthy of his help, such as the local asylum centre, how will John react?

1x03 Charan Gill

  • 2006-12-14T02:00:00Z — 50 mins

Last year Charan Gill, the curry-house king of Scotland, sold his restaurant empire for £16 million pounds. He became one of the richest men in the country overnight. Now, he lives with his wife and family in his dream home. But Charan’s not always been used to having money. He moved to Glasgow from India when he was 9 years old and started out working in the shipyards at the age of 15. He spent the next 25 years learning about business and by the time he was in his 40s he owned 17 Indian restaurants. Today, Charan feels he wants to help others who haven’t been as fortunate as himself. “I’ve worked hard, but I know that there are a lot of people who have worked harder than me who are still on the poverty line. I hope I can do some good. I would like to think there’s more to me than just curry.” This week, the 51-year-old Sikh becomes the third Secret Millionaire to go under cover and try to find people that he believes are worthy recipients for some of his fortune. He travels to Thetford, Norfolk, to join the thousands of unskilled workers who survive in rural Britain on the minimum wage. For the next ten days, he’s agreed to leave his millionaire lifestyle and start again with only £10 pounds in his pocket. As far as the locals are concerned he’s taking part in a documentary about people moving to the area hoping to start a new life. Unemployment levels in Thetford are low, but with most people working for the minimum wage, poverty levels are high, so it’s not going to be easy. During his stay, Charan has to fend for himself. He lives in a small rented flat on a housing estate costing £60 per week, so he has to make money fast and after a visit to the local job centre he lands his first day’s work as a fruit packer in a factory earning £5.25 per hour. He moves from job to job daily and soon discovers more about what life is like for the low wage earners of Thetford. At the end of his first week, and 48 hours of hard labour, his pay check amounts to just over £200. It’s certainly not a fortune, but he has met some interesting people, like Morgan who spends his time working as a labourer so that he can spend the weekends sleeping on the floor of his one-bedroomed flat while his 3 children are visiting him. “Unfortunately the world is full of Morgans. If I was inclined to help people like that I would be just walking down the street and dishing out money because of the needs that they have. Everyone has those needs.” Just how will Charan decide on who to give his cash to in a community where he feels so many people are in need? And when the proud Indian Scot finds himself working amongst the local immigrant population how will he react?

1x04 Paul Williams

  • 2006-12-21T02:00:00Z — 50 mins

Paul Williams started in business 25 years ago. He’s now worth £60 million and lives in a country mansion on the richest private estate in England. But for 10 days, Paul has agreed to say goodbye to his millionaire lifestyle and live undercover as part of the community on the Thorntree estate, Middlesbrough, one of the poorest areas in Britain. He wants to make a difference in people’s lives and give away some of his fortune. “When you’ve got a lot of money and wealth you do feel a little bit guilty. So one of the things for me, giving money away does, is to alleviate that guilt to some extent. It makes me feel better, it makes me feel I’m doing something and that I’m dealing with my wealth responsibly.” But he’s not going to Middlesbrough alone. Tonight, The Secret Millionaire has decided to take his 20-year-old son Ben with him. As a self made man, Paul tried to give Ben everything he himself didn’t have as a youngster. But now he feels it’s time to teach his son about financial responsibility and is hoping to show him what life is like without the finer things. “What I want Ben to learn from this is just what a lucky young man he is and how much he’s really got and what a privileged position he has in life”. So father and son head north for Middlesborough to see how the other half lives. On the Thorntree estate nearly 60% of the residents aren’t working, over half the children leave school without any qualifications at all and the crime rate is 50% higher than the national average. On arrival at their new home, Paul and Ben are greeted by a local with the words “You don’t wanna live round here mate…. it’s full of heroin addicts mate, you’ll be burgled in a day”. Noticeably shocked but determined to continue their quest, Ben starts work as a volunteer in the local homeless shelter and Paul starts his search for businesses and people to invest in. Just how easy will it be for Ben when he comes face to face with the harsh reality of drug addiction and poverty? And will Paul find anyone he believes to be worthy of some of his money? After an emotional visit, the pair finally reveal their identities and the true purpose of their stay. But how will the locals react?

1x05 Emma Harrison

  • 2007-01-03T02:00:00Z — 50 mins

Britain's richest female entrepreneur Emma Harrison heads to Dagenham, one of the country's poorest areas, and works undercover as a toilet cleaner. The multi-millionaire's aim is to find someone worthy enough to receive tens of thousands of pounds of her own money, in a bid to make their lives better. Last in series

1x06 Gregory Haerr

  • 2008-12-19T02:00:00Z — 50 mins

We meet a businessman, Greg Haerr from Salt Lake City, UT. He travels to Las Vegas to work with people in need. At the end he has to decide which new friend will receive the amazing gift of $100,000 of Greg's money.