Jon Moulton

At the height of the multi-million-pound talks to buy out MG Rover from BMW, venture capitalist Jon Moulton, who was leading one of the bids, still went to bed at 10.30pm and was asleep by 10.31 - an ability he developed at university to enable him to live life at the intense pace that is his life blood.

If you believe his account, Jon's three years at Lancaster consisted of one long string of japes involving buckets of water, chemicals from the labs in which he studied, midnight rallying round the Lake District and attempts to build a human-powered aircraft.

But the fact that he emerged with a 2:1 in chemistry and has made such an enduring success in the world of private equity, suggest it might be hiding an element of modesty.

The founder of the private equity firm Better Capital, who prides himself on being controversial, concedes that university allowed him to develop a confidence and a maturity, plus the ability to sleep through any amount of noise and disturbance at night. As he boasts: "My biggest friend in life has been my insensitivity. I am not good at being in a stable environment – I need change. Three years with loose reins was good for me."

Jon is clearly a man who thrives on stress. In the case of the Rover BMW talks, his former company Alchemy (of which he was managing partner), lost out to the Phoenix Consortium, but he is unmoved by the adverse result, which he deems was politically motivated.

There are plenty of battles in his career that he did win - as an accountant, a Fellow of the Institute of Turnaround Professionals, a government advisor on the private equity industry and in corporate and charitable roles.

His tenacious streak might have something to do with the fact that he was a sickly child, who missed a great deal of schooling, but still managed to overcome his illness and gain his 'A' level chemistry at 15 years old.

Born and brought up in Stoke on Trent, his upbringing in the company of adults had given him a maturity, further developed by a year working as IT manager in a building society after dropping out of University College of Wales Aberystwyth after a few weeks. The result was that he arrived at Lancaster for the restart of his university career, equipped with plenty of money, a white Austin Healey Sprite and a determination to have a good time.

In between his lectures, he found time to build a human-powered aircraft which he describes as "suicidal" with a group of friends as a rag stunt. Built in the University workshops from aluminium and plastic, it had two flight modes - 'nose dive' and '10% slow climb' - and required an elite athlete to keep it off the ground for more than a few seconds at a time. He was also much involved in the Bridge Club and in midnight rallying.

His comparative wealth allowed him to spend one happy year living in a riverside house in Galgate on the banks of a tributary of the River Lune. Whilst on campus he thoroughly enjoyed the laid-back atmosphere and constant presence of campaigners on anything from gay rights to social justice.

He admits that he had only moderate enthusiasm for his studies, particularly economics, which made up a ninth of his degree, but nowadays gives frequent lectures on the subject.

Even before his final year he had decided a career in chemistry was not for him as it meant working in industry. He started out as an accountant working for Coopers & Lybrand. He left there in 1980 to join Citicorp Venture Capital and became its London managing director. He went to Schroder Ventures as managing partner in 1985 and to Apax Partners in 1994, before founding Alchemy in 1997.

One theme running through his career has been his outspokenness - even about his own business world. this showed itself during his student days at Lancaster, when he was collared by a BBC Panorama film crew on campus and asked what he would do after his degree. His reply in a long interview stating that he did not know, but he believed that the chemical industry was in decline, sent shock waves through the department.

He has gone on to criticise private equity firms for trying to deflect criticism, has spoken out about the favourable tax treatment afforded to them and the lack of integrity of the accountancy profession in private equity buyouts. He resigned from Alchemy in 2009 and set up Better Capital in a determination to invest again, but better.

Jon is a man who likes to get things done and stands up for what he believes in a very practical way. In the case of private equity, he wants to see it properly run and defends anyone to wanting to "have a swing at it" because of the number of jobs it creates. His loyalty to Lancaster University is also very practically displayed - by his generous financial support of his alma mater.

Jon Moulton is a man who clearly cares more than he says he does.