He drove many of his rivals crazy. One former executive at a rival lender said: “As a competitor I watched with jealousy, but a lot of it was due to Michael, and the drive was him.
“When he took the reins at BM, he ratcheted up a gear the work he and his team did on technology. If you look at it today, almost all the mortgage business is transacted electronically, and BM was certainly one of the forerunners of that. It also had a reputation for good service.
“Michael Bolton was extremely well-liked in the market; a lot of top brokers were very happy to sit at his table. He listened to what they said, and he brought it to fruition. From that point of view he had a very powerful impact.”
But it was how he went about doing that business that drew criticism. His entertainment was extravagant in the extreme. There were frequent invitations to international sports events, with the best corporate hospitality trips to Wembley and the opera, as well as constant partying.
It is perhaps telling that in an interview about his life ambitions, two of the roles he considered for himself were to be a nightclub owner and wine connoisseur. Some of the more lurid tales emerged of his entertaining, involving lap dancing clubs and scantily clad golf caddies, and there was always the de rigueur promotional women in hot pants.
Famously, there was a party, ostensibly for HBOS, to be held at the top of the Gherkin, but unofficially it was Bolton’s 40th birthday party. Entertainment was a performance from girl band Girls Aloud, followed by a rendition of Happy Birthday, in the breathy style of Marilyn Monroe, by a female member of staff from Birmingham Midshires.
Many have questioned how HBOS allowed him to get away with it. The former rival lender said: “He was being massively successful, and blasted all their targets. Why should they shoot the goose who lays the golden egg?”
By 2005, however, it was clear that Bolton wanted something bigger. He and his long-time number two, Alan Cleary, the quiet introvert to Bolton’s extrovert, decided to launch their own specialist lender, Edeus.
In 2006, they did this in spectacular style, with a party at Home House, a private members club in the West End, followed by a party into the night at 50 St James Club, at that time a members only club in Mayfair.
The business was backed by Oakwood Group, a private equity firm run by a former colleague of Bolton’s from Future Mortgages, Mike Culhane.