The ‘statesman for hire’ earns a fortune as he flips roles between public official and private consultant
- Just what the EU needs: this unelected Â airbag in a suit for president!
TONY Blair has cashed in on his contacts from the Iraq war and his role as Middle East peace envoy for a private business venture expected to earn him more than pound stg. 5 million ($8.9m) a year.
The former British prime minister has sold his political and economic expertise to Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, via his fledgling private consultancy. He also represents the investment bank JPMorgan in the region.
Mr Blair has been working pro bono in the Middle East as a peace envoy while amassing a fortune from the US lecture circuit. By offering himself to the Arab states as a statesman for hire, he could double his annual earnings.
His consultancy, the London-based Tony Blair Associates, emulates the New York partnership Kissinger Associates, founded by Henry Kissinger, the former national security adviser to US president Richard Nixon.
A friend of Mr Blair said: “TBA has been set up to make money from foreign governments and major companies. There’s a focus on the Middle East, because that’s where the money is.”
- Stop Tony Blair from becoming the unelected President of the EU
- We asked you: Could you really stomach Tony Blair as EU President? These are your responses
His expanding business interests as he roves across the Middle East mean he flips his roles on a daily basis in official meetings. One hour he is the official peace envoy meeting a Middle East minister or ruler, the next he is a representative of TBA or JPMorgan. In some meetings with Arab states, where Mr Blair is introduced as the peace envoy, he has been flanked by Jonathan Powell, his former chief of staff, who accepted a job with Morgan Stanley, another US investment bank, after leaving Downing Street. Mr Powell has no role in the peace process, but is a senior adviser to TBA and helps to win business in the Middle East.
Peter Brierley, 59, from Batley, West Yorkshire, whose son Shaun, 28, was killed near the Kuwait-Iraq border in March 2003 and who refused to shake Mr Blair’s hand at a memorial service this month, said: “This beggars belief.
“It’s absolutely scandalous that he’s now trying to make money from his contacts in the region. It’s money from the blood and lives of the soldiers who died in Iraq.”
Hours after he stepped down from No10 in June 2007, Mr Blair became the Middle East envoy, on behalf of the European Union, the UN, US and Russia. Four months after leaving office, Blair signed a pound stg. 5m book deal with Random House. He is working on his memoirs, which are pencilled in for publication this time next year.
His fees for talks, along with contracts with JPMorgan and Zurich Financial Services, are estimated to put his earnings — excluding the book deal — well in excess of pound stg. 5m a year.
TBA’s annual earnings in the Middle East alone could be expected easily to double his current income, according to business sources in the region.
Mr Blair disclosed last December that he had formed TBA to advise on “political and economic trends and governmental reform”. One of his first recruits was Mr Powell.
On January 17, Blair was in Saudi Arabia in his peace envoy role to hold talks with King Abdullah on the Gaza strip and the need to end Israeli aggression. Mr Powell was also on the trip. Two days later, Mr Blair and Mr Powell met the nephew of the king, Prince Alwaleed, the wealthiest businessman in the Middle East, with a fortune of more than $26 billion.
Why would Mr Powell want to meet him? The most likely scenario is that he and Mr Blair were offering TBA’s services or wanted to cultivate Prince Alwaleed as an influential contact. A few days later, on January 26, they popped up in Kuwait. Mr Blair, introduced as the peace envoy, met the Emir of Kuwait, Sheik al-Sabah, and other senior officials in state rooms. Mr Powell was perched near Mr Blair on a sofa. It later emerged that TBA had signed up the country as a client, advising it on “good governance” for a reported seven-figure sum. “It’s a big task and he’s working as an adviser on many issues,” a Kuwaiti diplomat said last week.
Mr Blair has a long relationship with the Emir of Kuwait. He held talks with Sheik al-Sabah in 2003, weeks after Saddam Hussein was deposed.
On May 24, Mr Blair — as peace envoy — was in the UAE, meeting the Education Minister. That day, he walked into another meeting with the UAE Finance Minister, representing JPMorgan as an adviser.
Mr Blair is a regular visitor to Abu Dhabi, typically staying in a $2600-a-night double suite at the Emirates Palace. Mr Blair enjoys cordial relations with Sheik Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan. Mr Blair has praised the UAE for helping the Palestinians with millions of dollars for community projects. The country is also on TBA’s secretive client list. Sheik Mohammed’s state investment fund, Mubadala, is understood to have put TBA on its payroll about three months ago.
John McGaw, a senior adviser at Golden Oryx, a business development company in the UAE, said: “(Mr Blair) has a fantastic network, which is still sort of warm from his former days. He lends global credibility to one of the top sovereign wealth funds.”
One of Mubadala’s subsidiaries is building Masdar City, a zero-carbon development that will be powered by solar energy. Mr Blair supported the successful bid for the headquarters of the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) to be based in the city.
On September 3, Mr Blair was once again in Abu Dhabi, giving a speech before the crown prince and other dignitaries on the opportunities of globalisation. His talk — ranging from the Palestinian issue to the profits from globalisation — illustrates how he blends his unpaid role in the Middle East with opportunities to showcase the political and business talent that is available for hire.
While TBA may guarantee Mr Blair’s financial security, he risks ruling himself out of public service as the client list expands. Dr Kissinger was appointed in 2002 to chair an inquiry into intelligence failures before the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, but came under pressure to reveal the clients of Kissinger Associates. He stood down, citing a conflict of interest.
Mr Blair will come under pressure to disclose the client list of TBA if he becomes European Union president, even if he removes himself from the partnership’s day-to-day business.
Ed Davey, the British Liberal Democrats’ foreign affairs spokesman, said: “The role of peace envoy, the office of which is subsidised by the taxpayer, is not meant to be an opportunity to look for new business opportunities for Tony Blair Associates.”
Mr Blair’s spokesman said it was “absolute nonsense” to suggest Mr Blair was using contacts from the Iraq conflict or his work as a peace envoy for business purposes. He said Mr Blair had known the Emir of Kuwait since 1995.
He said TBA work did not represent a conflict of interest with his peace role. Kingdom Holding Company was not a TBA client and paid consultancy work with Kuwait had been completed, he said. “Tony Blair is in high demand for his advice and analysis in geopolitics,” the spokesman said. “However, the vast majority of his time is spent on his unpaid activities, principally his role as Quartet representative.”
The Sunday Times