Sunday, 15 January 2012


If Mrs Thatcher could be described as ‘the blond leading the bland’, then Tony Blair could equally have been described as ‘the brand leading the bland’. New Labour once famously said that it was more than comfortable to spend time in the company of the rich and shameless. Since Blair walked away from it all in June 2007 he has become a very marketable brand. He has done a number of deals which have brought him millions of pounds. Blair is an adviser, both paid and unpaid, to foreign governments (including a few dictators). Apparently he is highly in demand, is pretty well paid public speaker; international business consultant; a philanthropist (who works with two name associated charities and a third charity aiming to improve the lives of Africans.

Blair is also a Middle East peace envoy with an office in Jerusalem and is the author of a best-selling memoir, the proceeds of which he swiftly gave to charity. He is paid around £3 million a year to advise both JP Morgan, the US investment bank, and the Switzerland based global insurer, Zurich International. Not to mention, Tony Blair Associates (his own consultancy firm) which happens to advise the well heeled governments of Kuwait and Kazakhstan. Blair’s enterprises are what can best be described as a confusing mix of philanthropy, politics, and business administered via a complex mix of companies, which operate out of plush offices in Grosvenor Square in Mayfair in central London.

Some digging by the Daily Telegraph (admittedly no lover of Blair in or out of office) reveals that there are two parallel companies both with similar structures. One named Windrush Ventures and one named Firerush Ventures. As per legal requirement, the accounts are duly lodged with Companies House on Dec 30, in the quiet period between Christmas and New Year, they are audited by KPMG and signed off by Catherine Rimmer, one of Windrush venture’s directors. Ms Rimmer, a former Downing Street aide, is officially Mr Blair’s strategic director. Incidentally, Windrush Venture’s highest paid director, presumed to be Ms Rimmer, earns £200,000, according to the accounts.

The accounts show is that in the 12 months to March 31 2011, Windrush Ventures recorded a group turnover of a little over £12 million. In other words, Mr Blair’s management company was being paid £12 million - most of it coming from the secretive Windrush Ventures LP - for “the provision of management services”. The accounts show that about £3 million of it went on office and staffing costs. What happens to the rest of it is not entirely clear. Windrush Ventures employs 26 people with a total wage bill of almost £2.3 million at an average salary of £88,000.

It has office rental costs of £550,00 and a further £300,000 is spent on equipment. With a profit of £1 million - on which he pays tax of £315,000 - that leaves Windrush Ventures with about £8 million of “administrative expenses” unaccounted for. There is no obligation under company law to say what happens to that money. The accounts also show that in the previous year, Windrush ventures received about £8.5 million and paid tax after expenses were deducted of £154,000. That means that in the past two years, Windrush ventures was paid £20 million for management services and paid a total of £470,000 in tax. There is no suggestion that the accounts are anything other than entirely legitimate.

The Daily Telegraph also notes that it is not clear what monies go through Windrush and what income is channelled (for want of a better word)  through Firerush. Blair is apparently tight-lipped about the corporate structure - even going so far as to refusing to say why the companies are so named. There have been reports that Firerush is the structure set up to handle income from Tony Blair Associates, which if true - and on the scale of the Windrush accounts - would suggest the Blair Empire, including his charities, have incomes far beyond what anybody had realised. Firerush’s accounts have only partially been published and reveal little, although fuller accounts are anticipated later in the year.

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