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Firm bans e-mail at work

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LONDON, England -- John Caudwell, the multi-millionaire owner of high street retailer Phones 4u, has banned staff from using e-mail, he has said.

The tycoon -- who does not use e-mail -- told more than 2,500 employees Friday they would have to swap cyberspace for face-to-face.

He estimates the ban will save staff three hours a day and his company at least 1 million a month in saved time.

Caudwell, Britain's 26th richest man with a estimated personal fortune of 840 million, said: "I saw that e-mail was insidiously invading Phones 4u so I banned it immediately.

"Management and staff at HQ and in the stores were beginning to show signs of being constrained by e-mail proliferation -- the ban brought an instant, dramatic and positive effect."

He added that customers would still be able to contact the company via e-mail because only internal mailing had been banned.

The biggest benefit from the ban would be increased customer loyalty as staff focused on providing a better service, he said.

"Service par excellence needs 100% focus, and e-mail was showing the potential to get in the way -- but not in my business," Caudwell added.

"Phones 4u staff have been told to get off the keyboards, get face-to-face or on to the phone to colleagues.

"The quality and efficiency of communication have been increased tremendously in one fell swoop -- things are getting done and people aren't tied to their PCs.

"The net result is that the business has been dramatically liberated, leaving the typical Phones 4u person with an extra three hours a day to concentrate fully and without distraction on sales and customer service."

Last month Caudwell, who founded telecoms company The Caudwell Group, sold his mobile phone service business Singlepoint to Vodafone for 405 million.

With an annual turnover of 2.5 billion, his group employs 7,000 people and includes Phones 4U, gadget retailer The Discovery Store, mobile phone distributor 20:20 Logistics and the Dextra accessories business.

The 50-year-old is renowned for a flamboyant lifestyle that includes a four-seater helicopter, twin-engined jet, 1 million schooner yacht and 250,000 Bentley Azure.

In the last three years he has broken his neck three times, twice coming off his super-fast motorbikes and once landing awkwardly on his Olympic-sized trampoline.

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