When Lancashire brothers Mohsin and Zuber Issa purchased a run-down Bury garage back in 2001, little did they know they were sowing the seeds of a billion pound empire.
To those passing, the Brandlesholme Road petrol station may have just seemed like an ordinary garage, but its new owners had something different – a vision.
And now, nearly 20 years on, the Issa brothers have just secured a £6.8bn deal with Walmart to takeover supermarket giant Asda, placing the supermarket back into British ownership for the first time over two decades.
The pair, from Blackburn, are now worth more than £3bn, yet despite their vast wealth, the story of their remarkable rise to being one of the UK’s richest families is not particularly well-known.
This is the story of Mohsin and Zuber Issa.
Born to an Indian mother and father, who moved to Britain with little to their name in the 1960s, Mohsin and Zuber’s childhood was a modest one, reports the MEN.
Mohsin and Zuber grew up in a terraced house in Blackburn while their father worked in one of the town’s mills.
After leaving his job at the mill, Mohsin and Zuber’s father bought his own garage and the young brothers would help out by selling petrol and refreshments.
Although the family later sold the business, it sparked an idea that would make the brothers wealthy beyond their wildest dreams.
Mohsin and Zuber decided to branch out on their own, first renting a petrol station for two years, then in 2001 buying their first forecourt in Brandlesholme Road, in Bury. The derelict site cost £150,000.
From there, Euro Garages was born.
Situated on a busy road linking Bury and Ramsbottom, and surrounded by housing estates, there was no shortage of drivers running low on gas.
Yet the Issa brothers dreamed of something far bigger than a filling station.
Mohsin and Zuber set about making the most of the site’s retail potential and soon added a newsagents and a grocers.
Secret of success
It became such a success that they rapidly expanded into Lancashire, snapping up ailing garages where they replicated the model that had worked so well in Bury.
Speaking about the secret of their success, Zuber told the Financial Times in 2018: “Fuel sales were declining.
“We wanted to create a destination where you could get fuel, food-to-go and shopping.
“This is the formula and it works.
“We were fortunate that the big players were leaving the market just as we were growing.”
A key part of the Issa brothers’ plan to attract motorists was to secure partnerships with big brands.
Among the early adopters were Spar and Subway, both of which have become common sights at Euro Garages sites up and down the country.
Their empire, the EG Group, now has almost 6,000 sites across 10 countries, from the UK to the US and Australia.
It runs outlets for Greggs, Starbucks and KFC, and employs 44,000 people.
In 2017, it bought 77 Little Chef roadside restaurants.
Zuber, 48, said: “We grew (EG) from nothing.
“We’ve been on the pumps, we’ve been stocking the shelves, cleaning the toilets. You do everything.
“And once you do the foundation work, it’s no different wherever you go in the world. It’s a petrol station; you’re selling fuel, you’re selling coffee, you’re selling convenience.”
Mohsin, 49, said the company “makes more money selling a cup of coffee than we would do on an average tank fill-up”.
According to this year’s The Times Rich List, the tycoons are worth £3.56 billion.
Remarkably, they enjoyed a £2.36bn increase in their wealth on 2019 with only James Dyson, who was named the richest person in Britain, experiencing a greater annual increase.
Lancashire and proud
While their wealth has opened up a world of luxury, they remain fiercely proud of their Lancashire roots.
Despite splashing out £25m on a mansion in Knightsbridge in Central London, the low-profile pair have retained a strong connection to their hometown.
They still live in Blackburn and are building five mansions for them and their relatives just ten minutes’ drive from where they grew up.
Meanwhile, Euro Garages’ new £35m headquarters has recently opened in Blackburn and the brothers have invested £100million in a new business estate, which includes a Hampton by Hilton hotel and aims to bring 2,000 jobs to the town.