Shortly after being announced as the government’s new “Cost of Living Czar”, David Buttress, the multi-millionaire, co-founder and former CEO of takeaway app company Just Eat, went into his garden and inspected the butt of one of his chickens.
“Long busy day with some great meetings”, Buttress tweeted Monday night. “But it’s always great to come home to the real world and, ‘Dad, the chicken isn’t feeling well, can you go and check it out [sic] bum’… keep it real.”
Buttress, who has been hired by the government to help companies come up with “practical and real cost-of-living initiatives,” told his 8,000 followers that his “medical expert opinion” says everything is fine with the chicken.
The chicken’s exact movements are unknown, but Buttress got straight to work on Tuesday, meeting with Education Minister Nadhim Zahawi, supermarket bosses and sports organizations to brainstorm ideas on how to help struggling families get through the summer holidays when the children don’t get free school meals.
Steve Barclay, the Cabinet Secretary to whom Buttress will report, said the takeaway tycoon will bring a “wealth of experience” and “the strength and ingenuity of the business to go further to help British families at this difficult time.” support”.
The appointment of the takeaway millionaire, whose previous company was criticized for helping fuel an obesity epidemic, comes just days after the government’s long-awaited food strategy was criticized by leading experts. Tim Lang, Professor Emeritus of Food Policy at the City, University of London and former Commissioner for Sustainable Development of the UK Government, said: “There are no commitments, no targets and only tiny amounts of money. It’s classic Johnsonism: he ducks and dives, with rhetoric and mixed messages.”
Buttress, who started Just Eat’s UK operations in 2006 and was the company’s chief executive between 2013 and 2017, will not be paid for the government role, which lasts until the end of the year.
He probably doesn’t need the money. He made at least £17.4million selling stakes in JustEat between 2016 and 2017. The company merged with Dutch rival Takeaway.com in 2020 in a £6.2billion deal.
Buttress has tapped into his Just Eat fortune for so-called “angel investments,” much like the investors on the BBC’s Dragons’ Den TV show. He joined venture capital firm 83North and has made 10 angel investments in a variety of startups, primarily in food delivery.
He has invested in virtual restaurant brand Honest Food Company, Egyptian order service Elmenus and halal meat delivery service MyJam.
Some of his investments are driven more by his passions than a desire to make a great return. In 2017 he bought a stake in Dragons Rugby Club in Newport, Wales and was appointed its chairman.
Buttress, who grew up in a community area in Cwmbran, Gwent, said it was “a great personal honor for me to have the opportunity to make a real and positive impact on rugby in the region where I grew up” .
He grew up with the support of Pontypool but always identified with the dragons. “My grandfather was Treasurer of Pontypool for years,” he told the Guardian in 2018. “The other side of the family followed Newport — my father lives just yards from Rodney Parade and has been a Newport County season ticket holder for 60 years. As a Pontypool fan, I have always identified with the Dragons because they represent the elite end of the game in Gwent.”
Though he invested a “relatively significant” amount in the Dragons, he said his role goes far beyond benefactor. “That model doesn’t work in rugby because it’s short-term,” he said. “Growing up on a council estate in Cwmbran, I know the value of a pound; My mom worked part time to get us through school and I don’t throw money around. My job here is to build something that lasts, and I wouldn’t leave a legacy if all I did was write checks.”
Buttress attended Croesyceiliog Comprehensive School before studying law and economics at Middlesex University. He’s said he’s always wanted to work at a startup and grow it into a unicorn — an investment term for a private company worth more than $1 billion — though his father warned that “unicorns don’t exist.”
He joined Coca-Cola in 1998 and has held various sales positions. Selling cola to Danish restaurants, Buttress met Jesper Buch, who founded JustEat in Denmark in 2001. “We met at Nando’s in Hammersmith and I asked him what he was doing in Denmark. We got along very well. Over the flaming chicken he told me about Just Eat and I was hooked. It bit me like a bug,” he told the Evening Standard.
He soon quit Coke and they set up a British version of Just Eat in the basement of Buttress’s London flat. It turned over just £36 in the first month, but soon it was making it.
His worst day at Just Eat was Valentine’s Day 2011 when the system collapsed under demand. “The business grew by 500% and couldn’t handle the increase. It wasn’t a romantic evening at the Buttress household as I was on Skype and mobile all the time, but we managed to fix the problem and we learned a lot.”