He grew up in the mining village of New Cumnock in Ayrshire, before attending the University of Strathclyde. The son of a grocer, he began his career by selling trainers from the back of a van.
This led him to build up a chain of sports shops which he sold to JJB Sports in 1998. By 2006, the Sunday Times Rich List ranked the Ayrshire-born tycoon as the richest man in Scotland.
He has given away millions of pounds to charities including Live 8 and the Make Poverty History campaign. His promise to give away £1bn to charity, is the largest single sum he has pledged and is thought to be the single most generous philanthropic commitment made by any Briton. His pledge is only the latest in a long list of charitable donations.
He was one of the prime supporters of the Make Poverty History campaign and urged world leaders at the G8 summit in Gleneagles in Scotland in 2005 to use their power and influence to eradicate poverty.
Sir Tom also joined forces with former US president Bill Clinton and pledged an initial $100m (£60m) to the Clinton-Hunter Development Initiative to support developing communities. The initiative's projects have included sending heart monitors and operating theatre kit to hospitals in Malawi.
He and his wife Marion set up the Hunter foundation in 1998 to support educational and entrepreneurial projects.
Sir Tom plans to donate at least £100m through the foundation. He gave £1m to the BBC's Children in Need appeal in 2006 and a further £1m to Comic Relief in 2007.
His generosity has also extended to Bob Geldof's Band Aid 20 single, which received £7m of his fortune. And he pledged £1m in aid to help rebuild schools destroyed in the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster.
His charity work and commitment to tackling poverty earned him a knighthood in the 2005 Queen's Birthday Honours List, for services to philanthropy and entrepreneurship.
He was awarded the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy in 2013.