How snubbed footballer became destitute, made homeless in England, then rose again to head $1 billion tech firm

How snubbed footballer became destitute, made homeless in England, then rose again to head $1 billion tech firm


When Dean Forbes missed out on a professional football career, he could have been forgiven for thinking his days of making millions would be over.

The hard-to-take snub coincided with a difficult time in the future tech CEO’s life, when he was made homeless at 17 when he was also the primary carer for his disabled mum.

Debt-ridden because he tried to keep up with his free-spending football mates, Forbes took on an entry-level sales job at Motorola call centre. In 20-plus years, he has worked his way up the corporate ladder to lead a major software firm.

Last year, Forterro – who Forbes is CEO of – were bought out for a staggering $1 billion (£823 million). While, his own net worth is believed to be around £40 million.

Forbes told Business Chief, “I describe the start of my career journey as a twice homeless failed footballer who found himself doing telesales to service a mountain of debt that he’d accumulated to keep up with football friends.

“I’m really grateful for that debt because it meant I had to fail at football quickly in order to get into the professional working environment.”

When Forbes was a youngster he was living out his dreams as a centre back on Premier League side Crystal Palace’s books. But, his home life was far from rosy.

He was first made homeless at the age of 14, for reasons he has described as “a very bad family situation”.

Then, at just 17, Forbes’ disabled mum lost her job and their family home. They were forced to live in-and-out of hostels, which meant breaking the family up.

“Both times were very difficult for our family,” Forbes revealed. We went into hostel accommodation and the second time, we came out of it by breaking up the family. I was of age so I left home and had to go and make my own way. That was around the Motorola time so I left home which meant my mother needed a smaller place which we were able to find more easily. Four years later I was actually able to buy her a home.”

Choosing work meant football took a back step too. He admitted, “I look back now and realise I can’t say I dedicated my life to it because my friends who went on to have great careers, there’s a complete contrast in the way we approached football.

“I enjoyed it. I loved it so much and the part that wasn’t helpful to me is that it was just a group of my friends from similar estates. So I just laughed six days a week and messed around, played football when it was time to play football, but I wasn’t dedicated to it.”

But it set Forbes onto a different path.

Working for Motorola in telesales in a windowless room was the springboard for Forbes to seek out a career in business, and specifically, in the tech field.

He rose through the ranks at Motorola, before securing senior level positions at Isis Telecommunications and then software development Primavera. That’s when Forbes started working in mega money.

He was instrumental in Primavera’s $550 million (£460 million) sale to American computer technology company Oracle. Soon after, he scored his first CEO role for Paris-based KDS, who were then acquired by American Express in another multi-million deal.

What became evident was companies Forbes ran were doing so well they were the subject of huge takeovers. Back in 2021, Forbes was appointed CEO of Forterro – a leading Pan-European provider of ERP software for the industrial midmarket.

Quite astonishingly, private markets firm Partners Group bought the company out for a $1billion a year later – retaining Forbes as their CEO.

The inspirational leaders’ business acumen has seen him recognised as the UK’s most influential Black man by the JP Morgan-backed 2023 Powerlist, the annual rundown of the UK’s most powerful people of African, African Caribbean and African American heritage.

While fans of The Apprentice may have recently seen Forbes appear on the You’re Fired after show.

  • The Sun report
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