AO.com co-founder Alan Latchford has died at the age of 61.
Latchford, who left the online electricals retailer due to ill health in 2006, was the ‘L’ in AO.com’s parent company DRL.
He famously made a £1 bet with chief executive John Roberts on Christmas Eve in 1999 that he couldn’t change the way people buy white goods by using the internet.
Roberts hadn’t even heard of the internet at that point, but joined forces with Latchford, who had experience in building websites, and created what would become AO.com.
The business floated in February 2014, with a valuation of £1.6bn.
In a note sent to AO.com staff on Monday, Roberts said: “I first met Alan when I was working behind the bar in the Last Drop Village Hotel. He was a sharp thinking, eccentric, mathematical genius and van driver. Few back then had even heard of the internet. I certainly hadn’t and was still trying to understand what all this texting was about.
“He passionately believed the internet was about search and information. I saw its potential for selling. Although I pocketed the pound, maybe we were both right – who doesn’t use Google these days? Maybe I should have listened to him more.
“He left the business in 2006 due to ill health but we remained friends and Alan, until it more recently became impossible, used to have an annual day with me touring the business and then a few beers for old times’ sake. He always burst with pride seeing what he helped to create.”
Roberts added: “My bet with Alan was the spark that first created DRL and he was a big part of making AO happen in the years that followed. Let’s take a moment to think about him and his family while we’re working today.”