Willie was born in the Gorbals in Glasgow in 1956. He served an apprenticeship as a refrigeration and air conditioning engineer.
After working abroad for two and a half years in the United Arab Emirates in the early eighties, he returned to Glasgow and set up the company City Refrigeration in 1985 with his wife Susan. The company started its first year with 4 employees and with a turnover of £100k.
In 1994 3i, the venture capital company, took a 33% stake. The finance from this sale helped the company grow from a £6m to £60m turnover in less than six years. In 1999 the Haughey Family negotiated a deal to buy back the shareholding from 3i, after this transaction Willie and Susan Haughey now have a 98% stake in the company.
The biggest development in the Company’s history was the decision to move into Facilities Management. This rapidly growing market was ideally suited to City’s history of service and skilled labour management. After a trial period in Scotland and the North of England, City successfully won a ten year Facilities Management contract with Wal*Mart in 2001, covering all 260 ASDA stores throughout the UK. In 2010 they signed an extension to the contract with ASDA to 2022, with 400 stores being looked after throughout the UK.
The Company is now divided into three divisions covering Technical Services, Engineering Project and Facilities Management. All three look to the future with great confidence, as they head towards a £500m turnover in 2014. The Company now boasts some of the largest companies in the world on its client base, i.e. Wal*Mart/Asda, Wesfarmers/Coles and BP to name but a few and delights in the fact it has over 12,000 employees.
In 2010, the company expanded to Australia and now has its offices in Melbourne where it employs over 550 people looking after 720 stores for one of Australia’s largest retailers, (Coles).
With exciting developments in Europe, The U.S, South Africa and the Middle East, Willie confidently predicts that turnover, will more than double over the next five years.
Outside of City Refrigeration, Willie has many interests, he was a Director of Celtic Football Club plc for two and a half years from 1994 to 1997 and is now an Ambassador for the Club, he also owns a hotel and a property company in Scotland.
In 2012 Willie received a knighthood in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list. In 2013 Willie was elevated to the House of Lords.
The Haughey family has set up a charitable trust that has donated over £7m to charity.