BRIGHOUSE millionaire Carl Hopkins has traded the boardroom for a deprived community to become a Secret Millionaire.
The businessman is the star of tomorrow’s hit Channel 4 programme which sees him take a poorly-paid job in a bid to uncover the unsung heroes of a community.
Mr Hopkins left behind the trappings of a millionaire’s lifestyle – big house, flash car and fancy holidays – to become a community warden in County Durham.
As a child he grew up on a council estate and dreamed of escaping.
As a millionaire he hopes to help other people turn their lives round.
He made his fortune as the head of a marketing company and established himself as one of Yorkshire’s top entrepreneurs.
The 43-year-old said: "I am from a working class background and I do know what it is like to live in places like that.
"When I arrived I showed the taxi driver the address and he said ‘Oh your going to crack central.’
"I was turfed out on a rundown council estate and living among drug users and people out of prison who sadly don’t really care about the area they are living in, so it’s gone to rack and ruin.
"I was living on £67.50 a week. Thankfully I’m not a big spender and cook quite a lot, so I thought nothing of going down to the Co-op."
Mr Hopkins left behind wife Stefanie and son Adam, 13, to live undercover for 10 days and get to the heart of the community.
He was sent to a once thriving colliery town called Easington which has been in decline since its pits closed in the 1980s.
His undercover mission led him to the colliery brass band, which faces a bleak future due to lack of money.
He also meet a retired miner devoted to keeping the Miners’ Welfare Centre open as a youth centre, while also working alongside a man who created a city farm for children.
Mr Hopkins added: "Some of the people I met were inspirational.
"It’s made me realise that within every community there are people who just go out to help others; they find something positive within everything and work away at it.
"In turn they give other people hope.
"The people I met were so unselfish in what they did; it was humbling to see."
Mr Hopkins worked for his fortune, starting as a junior designer in 1984 and rose through the ranks to managing director in 2000.
He steered the business towards a £19.4m turnover and was leading a team of 75 staff.
Over the past decade he has added more businesses to his portfolio but sold them in 2007.
Instead of taking early retirement Mr Hopkins became involved in a variety of Yorkshire businesses, offering advice to others.
He hopes his son will one day follow his footsteps with the same work ethics.
He added: "I was always taught not to spend what I don’t have.
"My parents had a very strong work ethic which I inherited, as did my sisters.
"My son knows how fortunate he is, but he still works, so he realises the value of money.
"It’s something I’ll never forget."