– Tony Blair’s Byzantine world of advisers and lucrative deals (Telegraph, Sep. 24, 2011):
Since leaving office, Tony Blair has adopted many roles. The international statesman. The guardian of Africa. The religious leader. The global businessman.
He travels the world, a highly publicised diplomatic mission in the morning and a private, never mentioned, business deal signed in the afternoon.
Combining these myriad, sometimes apparently conflicting, personas requires skill and dexterity – and a global organisation he has quietly built to service them.
An investigation by The Sunday Telegraph can reveal new details of the complex structure behind “Tony Blair Inc”. It can also be disclosed that Mr Blair has built links with Monitor Group, an American public affairs consultancy that earned millions of pounds working for Col Muammar Gaddafi, the deposed Libyan dictator.
The former Prime Minister employed at least three staff from Monitor Group as senior advisers to his personal office at the same time as he put together multi-million pound deals in Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The men were all on the payroll of the US consultancy firm at the same time as they were representing Mr Blair.
Monitor, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is the subject of increasing scrutiny in the US over millions of dollars it earned attempting to boost the image of Gaddafi.
Mr Blair’s organisation, a Byzantine web of highly specialised limited partnerships and parallel companies, is baffling in its structure.
He has a commercial consultancy, Tony Blair Associates, and jobs advising JP Morgan, the US bank, and Zurich Financial Services, the Swiss insurer. He has set up two major international charities, the Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative (AGI) and the Tony Blair Faith Foundation.
Much of Mr Blair’s income has been funnelled through a structure called Windrush Ventures, which also runs and pays for the Office of Tony Blair in Grosvenor Square, London.
From here, Mr Blair and his staff coordinate his commercial activities, reputedly bringing in £7 million a year. The organisation lets Mr Blair’s roles overlap. A role fostering good governance in Africa, designed to combat corruption, also establishes excellent contacts with local leaders with the power to award contracts.
His diplomatic role as Middle East peace envoy for the Quartet (the UN, Russia, US, and EU) also gives Mr Blair unfettered access to the leading political players in the region. It also allows just the sort of introduction a client might later require.
At its heart of this international juggling act are a loyal coterie of staff. Our investigation shows how Mr Blair has pulled together a team which spans loyal former staff from Downing Street, high-flying management consultants and a series of well-connected, and, in many cases, wealthy, Americans from Wall Street and the Bush and Clinton administrations.
One of the key figures is Ruth Turner, Mr Blair’s former director of government relations at Number 10, who is chief executive of his Faith Foundation and paid a reputed six-figure salary. She has no role outside Mr Blair’s charitable foundations and is not involved in his commercial activities.
She leads a line-up of people recruited from senior positions in government, including Nick Thompson, now the chief executive of AGI, who previously headed up the climate change unit at the Department for Business.
Paul Skidmore, AGI’s director of strategy and fund-raising, is a former adviser to David Miliband, and Andrew Ratcliffe, its “lessons learned” project leader, was in Mr Blair’s Downing Street Strategy Unit.
Other Whitehall allies are scattered around the world.
Malte Gerhold, once of the prime minister’s Delivery Unit, is project leader for AGI in Sierra Leone, along with two former colleagues, while a similar project in Rwanda is led by Jonathan Reynaga, an ex-Downing Street senior policy adviser.
Mr Blair’s Whitehall links also connect him to the Monitor Group. Monitor paid Sir Mark Allen – formerly MI6 director of counter terrorism and the man who paved the way for Mr Blair’s first visit to Gaddafi in Tripoli in 2004 – as a consultant.
After leaving the Secret Intelligence Service, Sir Mark used his Middle East contacts to help BP win a series of deals in Libya and forged close links with Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the dictator’s son.
Mr Blair began to use Monitor staff in 2008. Between December 2009 and May last year, Abdullah AlAsousi was the Office of Tony Blair’s senior adviser in Kuwait, when he also worked at Monitor to help clients with “opportunities” across the Middle East.
Last year, he was replaced by Naser Almuntairi, another Monitor consultant, who acts as Mr Blair’s government consultant in Kuwait. The former prime minister also employs an American, Holly Barnes, a public relations expert, in Kuwait.
She is paid directly through Mr Blair’s holding company Windrush Ventures. All three are believed to have been involved in Mr Blair’s deal advising the country’s monarchy, which has earned him a reputed £27 million.
Another Monitor employee, Khaled Jafar, is Mr Blair’s “government consultant” covering Dubai and its neighbour Abu Dhabi, to whose Crown Prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, Mr Blair is close.
Mr Blair has praised the UAE for millions of pounds of help for Palestinian community projects, and Sheikh Mohammed’s state investment fund, Mubadala, is said to have Mr Blair on its payroll. Mubadala’s interests include oil exploration contracts in Libya.
It is with the American worlds of politics and finance that Mr Blair has found especially close ties. He relies on the advice of a series of well connected businessmen, the foremost of which is Paolo Pellegrini, a financier.
Mr Pellegrini, is president of AGI in the US, and was once the right-hand man of John Paulson, a hedge fund boss. It was Mr Pellegrini who predicted the collapse of the US subprime housing market, prompting Mr Paulson’s fund to bet on the collapse of the US housing market, netting a $20 billion (£12 billion) profit.
Another key adviser is Tim Collins, a billionaire businessman who accompanied Mr Blair on a trip to Libya to meet Gaddafi.
A friend of Bill Clinton, he is a director of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, like Linda LeSourd, whose husband Philip Lader was an ambassador to London. But he is able to call on people close to the Republicans: one adviser to the Office of Tony Blair is Milli Anne Grigory, an adviser to George W Bush and a Republican fund-raiser.
Last night, a spokesman for Monitor Group said: “Monitor has no business relationship with the Office of Tony Blair.”