The property tycoon who struck real gold
Filthy Rich is Manoj Raithatha's account of how a life driven by ruthless ambition fell apart - and was transformed by a powerful encounter with Jesus
On the inside front page of Filthy Rich is a dedication from the author ‘to my wife, Maria, whom I failed many times. I am so sorry that it took so long to appreciate the gift you are in my life.’ It encapsulates the transformation at the heart of the book.
Filthy Rich is Manoj Raithatha’s personal story of ruthless ambition, of risk-taking and restlessness. It is the story of one man’s belief that ‘money trumps morals, money equals power’ and his desire to become as rich and powerful as possible – whatever the cost.
But it is also the story of what happens when everything falls apart – of new beginnings, re-evaluating priorities in life and emerging a better man as a result.
Manoj Raithatha was raised as a Hindu in Watford and in Kenya. Interested in business at a young age, he started selling alcohol and cigars at school, and soon realized the power of money to ‘buy’ school friends. ‘Now that I had started’, he writes in Filthy Rich, ‘there was no going back.’
He seemed to have achieved success when his debut play ‘BBA and Proud’, written when he was a student, won an Edinburgh Fringe First prize and led to a contract for the BAFTA-winning, Emmy-nominated children’s TV series, My Life as a Popat.
But Manoj wanted more. Money became a ‘real-life magnet’ in his life – a factor which intensified when, after working briefly as a teacher, a playwright and a furniture salesman, he became a buyer of new build properties. In his desire to become ‘filthy rich’, he started taking bigger risks, making higher profits, becoming more addicted to the heady buzz of the business world – and neglecting his wife and family as a result.
At one point, he bought 220 apartments in Leeds in a deal worth over £30 million – believed to be the biggest single deal in the North that year - and was the focus of a major feature in the property section of the Daily Telegraph in 2005. Manoj soon had a substantial property portfolio stretching across the UK, including properties in Leeds, Manchester, Bradford, Sheffield and London. He owned his dream house, took luxury holidays with his family and enjoyed an enviable lifestyle.
However, while Manoj was ‘lost in an increasingly unreal world’, his wife Maria was desperately unhappy:
‘I felt each day I was losing my husband; the kind-hearted guy… who promised to always cherish me,' she says. 'I felt powerless to stop the growing chasm between us… Money is good – you need it to get by and to help others with less. However, it can also change people and families for the worse overnight. I felt like a stranger in my own home.’
Manoj’s professional and personal world came tumbling around him in 2008 when the mortgage market collapsed and his two year old son Ishaan was hospitalised with breathing difficulties and nearly died. In desperation, Manoj prayed to God for the first time in over 20 years – ‘in recent years,’ he writes, ‘I had made money and success my God. But at this point, all the money in the world would not make a blind bit of difference.’
Deeply touched by the prayers and concern of a Christian couple from his daughter’s school while Ishaan was ill, Manoj and his wife Maria went to church with the couple after Ishaan’s recovery to thank them – and a few weeks later, Manoj gave his life to Christ. Maria’s Christian faith of her youth was reignited too, and they were both baptised in the same ceremony.
The path ahead was not easy. Manoj suffered chest pains and anxiety attacks as he slowly worked through his business affairs and numerous negotiations and compromises to prevent losing everything. He had to learn how to relinquish control to God and to learn obedience and humility – which did not come naturally to this ambitious businessman, especially when he was turned down for ordination training.
Manoj admits that he is still very much a ‘work in progress’ as a husband and as a Christian. But he is now passionate about using the world of business to shape the world for good and for God. In partnership with Bridget Adams, Manoj set up Instant Apostle publishing house in 2011 to provide a vehicle to quickly release books and pamphlets by Christian writers, enabling authors to expeditiously comment on topical issues. Manoj admits that for many years business was primarily to make him rich. In contrast, Instant Apostle is about 'creating a better future and space for others to express their passions'.
In addition to his business work, Manoj heads up the South Asian Forum team at the Evangelical Alliance, set up to unite, connect and represent those with a heart to reach the South Asian community for Christ.
And he hopes too that by sharing his story, others may be impacted. Praised by Steve Clifford, General Director of the Evangelical Alliance, as ‘an amazingly encouraging account of a life turned around by a powerful encounter with Jesus’, Manoj says Filthy Rich has been sensitively written so that it can be given to those of other faiths as well as people who have no faith.
Filthy Rich (9780 85721 590 1), paperback £8.99, is published by Lion Hudson and is available now from high street bookstores, Christian bookshops and online retailers.
Manoj Raithatha is also co-author of Building the Kingdom through Business (ISBN 9780 95591 351 8), published by Instant Apostle, and is available from Christian bookshops and online retailers.