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Thursday, 30 October 2008

Tony Blair and the Recession

As we enter the recession I thought people might be interested in seeing an update of the financial situation of Tony Blair. From a report in The Times this week:

Tony Blair’s earnings since leaving Downing Street are calculated to have topped £12 million, more than six times his previous lifetime income.

The former Prime Minister, who tours the world speaking to audiences including investment banks, private equity firms and chambers of commerce, is now said to be the highest-paid speaker in the world.

As the stock market has plummeted and the housing market has slumped, the man who as Prime Minister championed the “light-touch” system of financial regulation blamed by some for the current crisis is enjoying an unprecedented boom of his own.

Mr Blair receives £84,000 of taxpayers’ money to run a private office and is entitled to an annual pension of £63,468, but this pales to insignificance beside his private earnings. He has made £4.6 million from his memoirs, an estimated £2 million from JPMorgan Chase — including bonus — and £500,000 from Zurich Financial Services. On top of that he has exceeded the $9.2 million (£5.8 million) that Mr Clinton earned, according to his wife Hillary’s financial disclosures, from speeches in his first year outside the White House.

“I can tell you that Tony Blair has already made more money than that,” a speaking industry source said. “He is now probably the highest-paid public speaker in the world.”

At the United Nations there is fear that his focus on commercial interests is jeopardising his unpaid role as Middle East envoy.

One senior official said: “There’s a view in the UN that he’s not making any progress and that from all the status that he brings to the position, he doesn’t seem to be achieving anything . . . He’s meant to work on the distribution of aid to Palestinians and not brokering peace in the Middle East, though he’d like to do that.”

Such is the demand for Mr Blair, who works exclusively through the blue-chip Washington Speakers Bureau, that he has a two-year waiting list for bookings, with clients prepared to pay $250,000 (£157,000) for a typical speech of roughly 90 minutes.

One of his main employers is the Washington-based Carlyle Group. Next month he will address a conference of its European investors in Paris about “geopolitics”. He addressed a similar conference for Carlyle in Dubai in February. Carlyle Group is a leading private equity investor in the military.

Carlyle and the Blair Government have a controversial history. The National Audit Office said taxpayers lost millions from the privatisation of spy technology because of Labour’s decision to appoint Carlyle Group as a preferred bidder too quickly.

However, it is not all good news for Tony Blair. Like other wealthy individuals, he has been badly hit by the economic downturn. For example, he owns five properties. The house he owns in Sedgefield is now worth £126,000, down from a peak of £140,000 in summer last year (he bought it for £30,000 in 1983).

In 2002 he bought two new-build apartments bought for £265,000. They looked a shrewd investment at the time but it has been reported that one of them is now on the market for £285,000.

His house in London bought for £3.65 million in 2004. He then added the adjoining mews house, for £800,000 early last year. However, it is in a fashionable part of London and is still valued at over £5m.

His biggest loss is for his home in Wotton Underwood, Buckinghamshire. He bought the property for £4 million in May. It is currently valued at £3.76 million.

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