Business success ... Late Crazy John's founder John Ilhan with wife Patricia.

Business success ... Late Crazy John's founder John Ilhan with wife Patricia. Photo: Jessica Shapiro

From a Broadmeadows battler to Australia’s richest man under 40, Crazy John Ilhan’s story was the stuff of entrepreneurial legend. 

Ilhan built the Crazy John’s chain of mobile phone stores into a national success story but died unexpectedly at 42 after suffering a heart attack while out on a morning walk near his home in bayside Melbourne. 

Never shy of publicity, the businessman regularly offered advice and insights for people hoping to emulate his success. Here are ten memorable lines:

  • "I remember wanting to be somebody. The opportunities weren't there if you come from a working-class suburb."
  • "I had to sell myself, because that’s all I had."
  • "The first five years of my business life ... was a blur, because I spent all day, all night in the shop, worrying about every cent. I used to sleep in the store on the floor.''
  • "When you haven’t got a dollar in your pocket the best way to market is to have a crazy name. I mean, you need something to boast about. And you can’t boast unless you’re different."
  • "The first million was the hardest to make, and the easiest to lose."
  • "The first thing I bought was a Porsche - not brand new."
  • (On buying a house for his parents.) "I built them a new house in Broadmeadows because they refused to move; they thought it was a big thing just moving across the suburb."
  • "My children are my biggest concern. I do take them to visit my parents in Broadmeadows and I still have a lot of friends who are builders and plumbers. My children won't be given everything." 
  • "I’m fed up with Telstra's bullying. The company isn't competitive any longer."
  • "The best thing about making money is you can help society and the community. When you come from a working-class background, you see how underprivileged people struggle."