I was skint after being sacked for stripping at a work do… now I’m a millionaire after setting up celeb removals company | The Sun

RACING through the corridors of a five-star hotel naked during a work Christmas party, Anthony Ward Thomas knew he was in deep trouble.

The salesman, from Thaxted, Essex, had been drunkenly convinced to spray the boss and his wife with a fire extinguisher – and took the prank a step further by stripping off.

The next day Anthony was fired from the London Metal Exchange – but insists it was “one of the best things that ever happened".

That’s because it set him on the path to start a removals company that’s now one of the biggest in the UK, boasting celebrity clients – and a whopping £50million turnover.

Anthony, whose company Anthony Ward-Thomas Removals makes more than £5m profit a year, has rubbed shoulders with the likes of Simon Cowell, Keira Knightley, and even moved former prime minister Boris Johnson.

It's an incredible achievement for someone who admits he "scraped through" school, and had lofty dreams of being a professional cricketer.


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Anthony then joined the London Metal Exchange, where he worked his way up from clerk to junior dealer, before being fired for his work Christmas party antics at the five-star Grosvenor House in Mayfair.

“I was quite young and went out to lunch with one of my bosses, who could drink more than I could and was dared to do something stupid," he tells The Sun.

“The idea was for me to squirt the chairman and wife with a fire extinguisher when they entered, but I went one step further by taking all of my clothes off.

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A young Anthony before starting his multi-million-pound companyCredit: supplied
Anthony's business turns over more then £50million a yearCredit: Times Newspapers Ltd

“When I used the fire extinguisher everyone got squirted and I ran. I didn’t have any clothes on and was chased into the great room and tackled by members of staff.

“I was bundled up unceremoniously and, after putting my clothes back on, I was kicked out. The following day I lost my job – but it was the best thing that ever happened.”

It pushed Anthony to think more seriously about his future career – and after a stint as a travelling aluminium salesman, he decided to start his own business.

“I knew I needed to break free and become the master of my own destiny,” he explains.

“When I told my employer I was leaving to do something on my own and start a removals business, they thought I was joking and laughed at me. 

“The next day I gave back my Vauxhall Cavalier. It was such a euphoric feeling getting rid of it and knowing I wasn’t reliant on a company anymore.” 


First, Anthony needed to learn the trade. He worked for two removals firms, earning around £30 a week.

He says it was a real eye-opener because some of the house movers he worked with stole from their customers.

“Back then it was just a ticket to thieve,” Anthony says. “These guys would go in, fill their pockets, and then nothing would be discovered missing until weeks later when it was too late.

“They stole TVs, jewellery, watches, money and Sony Walkmans – they even took customers’ car keys so they could come back to nick the car weeks later.

“I remember at one delivery, a second van turned up and the removal guys started unloading items into it. The van disappeared shortly after that.” 

It spurred Anthony to launch his business, aged 17, in 1985 – hoping he could make it a success “just by way of being honest”.


With just £1,000 to his name, Anthony went to a car auction to buy a removals van – and after discovering he was £4,000 short, he took a very risky gamble.

He tells us: “I phoned up my bank manager and asked him for a loan. I told him I didn’t have £5,000 for the van and I’d just put down a £1,000 deposit.

“I said, ‘Unless you give me £4,000, I’ll have lost £1,000. So make up your mind please.' He told me, ‘Well, you’re not giving me much choice.'

“It was a very unusual way to ask for a loan, but I knew I wouldn't get a business loan the normal way because I didn’t have a business plan, so I had to be a bit inventive.”

'Horror' first job

Soon after, Anthony landed his first job moving a running magazine editor’s belongings in Finsbury Park – but he was way out of his depth.

He recalls: “The customer thought I had years of experience when I didn’t. I didn’t know what I was doing, so I just walked around his house with a notepad writing things down to amuse myself. 

“I sent him a quotation of £560 for a three-day removal including packing it all up and much to my horror, he replied ‘I’d very much like to use you.’”

Anthony managed to convince friends and acquaintances to help him with the move and despite a few mishaps, he pulled off the job.

“Each one became easier from there onwards,” he recalls.

“Word of mouth was key to our success – our customers were so impressed that we didn’t have to advertise for about 12 years."

Wealthy customers

Three years on, Anthony had enough employees to stop doing the removals himself and switched his focus to growing the business.

His company continued to grow and was able to weather the recession in the Nineties thanks to its “good reputation” and regular big customers including Carlton Towers Hotel, and a wealthy divorcee who "moved around a lot”.

In 2003, Anthony realised that to continue growing the business, he needed to acquire new businesses.

Word of mouth was key to our success – our customers were so impressed that we didn’t have to advertise for about 12 years

He started snapping up smaller rival removals firms, including Aussie Man & Van in 2012.

The company also topped up its earnings with other services including storage and transporting precious items, like fine art.

In 2004 – the year the company recorded its first £1m profit – Anthony allowed staff to buy equity in the company. It now has nearly 50 shareholders.

Celebrity clients

The company now does around 50 moves per week – with prices ranging from £600 for a small flat to £4,000 for a five-bed in Chelsea, and £60,000 paid by the owners of a castle near Kidderminster.

His previous clients include politicians Matt Hancock, who he moved twice this year, Boris Johnson before he became Prime Minister, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Michael Gove.

Among the more amusing moves was helping the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, leave Lambeth Place when he stepped down in 2012.

In 2018, Anthony told The Times: “We had a couple of Australian guys who didn’t really understand who he was.

“One went up to him and said, ‘Well done, mate, you must have worked bloody hard to get a house like this'.” 

The company has also been hired by a wealth of celebrities including Cate Blanchett, who they helped relocate to Australia, and other big stars.

Anthony recalls: “Back in the day we moved Simon Cowell and he treated the guys with such respect and generosity.

Back in the day we moved Simon Cowell and he treated the guys with such respect and generosity

“When we moved Keira Knightley she sat in the truck all the way to the delivery address because she was a nice person, and the boys were thrilled to get to chat away to her.”

They have also had a few tricky moves, including one that required airlifting a client’s possessions into a Swiss penthouse by helicopter, and another in Italy where they were forced to use a donkey and cart.

Other memorable jobs include handling Matisse paintings for Sotheby’s and installing a Vatican fireplace in West London.

'Forget Plan B'

Anthony, who is a millionaire, has homes in London and Hampshire and says his biggest splurge is National Hunt racing.  

He was an amateur jockey until 2014 and at one point owned four racehorses – he bought one for £10,000 to celebrate acquiring Aussie Man & Van.

Reflecting on his company’s success, Anthony says he could never have imagined how well they would do.

He says: “I mark my success not by pounds, shillings or pence but when the phone rings and it’s someone I moved 30 years ago asking me to move them again.”

For those thinking about starting their own business, Anthony advises not to "over-research" because "anxiety kills an entrepreneur’s spirit”, and choose something you enjoy.

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He adds: “If you decide to go it alone, do not have a Plan B.

“If you have a Plan B you will always be looking behind or to the side of you. Concentrate, focus, be narrow-minded, and do not look back.”

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