Tony Blair has set up his own stock market trading desk at his Mayfair headquarters.
Five members of his staff are registered with the Financial Services Authority and trading screens have been installed at Mr Blair’s offices, in Grosvenor Square in central London.
Mr Blair has established a complex web of companies, designed, according to accountants, to hide just how much money he makes and from where his money comes.
He has denied being “super rich”, but having built up a property portfolio of several homes and two multimillion-pound businesses, it is expected that he will enter the rich-lists for the first time this year with a fortune of somewhere between £35 million and £60 million.
Details of his trading desk have been pieced together by The Sunday Telegraph, which has conducted a series of investigations into Mr Blair’s finances since he left office in 2007.
The investigation shows:
* A trading desk is now operating at his London headquarters;
* Five employees at one of his companies, Firerush Ventures, have obtained licences from the FSA;
* The team is led by David Lyon, formerly managing director at Barclays Capital;
* The FSA licences give Mr Blair’s staff the power to advise clients and invest money on their behalf.
A posting on LinkedIn, the professional networking website, discloses details of Mr Blair’s operation. It was written by an IT consultant called Matt Walsh, who worked for Mr Blair for just over a year until May 2011.
Mr Walsh gave a full description of his duties. He wrote: “Supporting all functions of IT at a highly sensitive site in Mayfair. This was for a [sic] Tony Blair’s private office and charities which is over 100 local and remote users.”
Mr Walsh listed all the IT systems he oversaw during his time with Mr Blair, including two types of trading systems. One of his duties, he explained, was providing “Reuters 3000 Xtra and Bloomberg support for small trading team”.
Reuters 3000 Xtra is an electronic trading platform typically used by professional traders and analysts in trading rooms. The system gives traders real-time information on stock market prices as well as on commodities, bonds and other financial data. It also has a trading function. Bloomberg is a separate terminal which can also be used by traders.
A second IT consultant, Scott Macpherson, posted on his LinkedIn profile that he worked for Mr Blair between October 2009 and May 2011. Both men appear to have been brought in by Exceed IT, a company in north London.
The details listed by Mr Macpherson of his work at Mr Blair’s headquarters, described as “TBO”, included helping to set up additional offices from where Mr Blair or his Africa Governance Initiative operate around the world, including Yale University in the US, where the former prime minister has held a lecturing post.
On his profile, Mr Macpherson said his duties included: “Planning and implementation of satellite sites, primarily consulting on and implementing sites in Kuwait, Sierra Leone, Toronto, Liberia, Yale NY, Rwanda as well as other locations.” Like Mr Walsh, he said he provided “Bloomberg support for small trading team”.
The disclosure of the existence of the trading desk suggests that Mr Blair may be making more money than has been realised.
Mr Blair has two separate trading arms, Firerush Ventures and Windrush Ventures, which consist of a series of limited companies, limited partnerships and limited liability partnerships.
The latest accounts show that one of those companies, Windrush Ventures Ltd, had an income of more than £16million and profits of £3.6million for the year ending March 31 2012. Profits more than trebled in that time and turnover was up £4million on the previous year’s accounts.
Windrush Ventures paid total tax of just over £900,000 with more than £12.5million written off as administrative expenses. The group’s wage bill is £2.3million, meaning that more than £10million of expenses is unexplained in the annual accounts. Firerush Ventures made a profit last year of £68,000.
Mr Blair has invested heavily in his team, having hired Mr Lyon at the end of the summer. Mr Lyon was a managing director at Barclays in the debt capital markets financial institutions group. He had spent 15 years at Barclays and was likely, with bonuses, to have been earning a sizeable sum.
A spokesman for Mr Blair said: “David Lyon has been appointed to grow and develop Tony Blair’s business activities. These commercial interests provide important funding for his charitable work.”
Mr Lyon is listed at Companies House as a director of Firerush Ventures Ltd, which channels the money from Mr Blair’s lucrative business consultancy, Tony Blair Associates. Mr Lyon was registered by Firerush with the FSA in November (Xetra: A0Z24E - news) , allowing him to advise clients on their investments and to handle their money.
He is registered with “a CF30 customer function” which covers several activities including “advising on investments”, “dealing, as principal or as agent, and arranging deals in investments” and “acting in the capacity of an investment manager”.
Four other employees are registered by Firerush with the FSA: Varun Chandra, an Oxford graduate who previously worked for Lehman Brothers; Prashant Francis, a former employee at JP Morgan (Other OTC: JPAAZ - news) , the investment bank; Catherine Rimmer, a former Downing Street aide and now Mr Blair’s strategic director; and Jason Searancke, a director of Firerush and Windrush who previously worked for KPMG, the auditing firm.
The total scale of Mr Blair’s earnings is unclear, with values on his wealth put at anywhere up to £60million.
He has lucrative consultancies with JP Morgan and the global insurance company Zurich International while he also earns as much as £200,000 a time for public speaking.
Windrush Ventures channels money for the Government Advisory Practice, a consultancy set up by Mr Blair to provide advice to national and regional governments. The consultancy has signed multimillion-pound deals in Kuwait, Brazil and Kazakhstan, and teams are deployed around the world.
The accounts of Windrush Ventures show how Mr Blair’s business is booming. The company has 29 staff, with a wage bill of £2.05million, working out at an average salary of almost £71,000.
Firerush administers the funding for Tony Blair Associates, which advises companies and sovereign wealth funds, among them Mubadala, an Abu Dhabi wealth fund. According to its latest accounts, available from last week at Companies House, Firerush had about £1.3 million in the bank as of last April (Paris: FR0004037125 - news) .
Mr Blair is said to have earned as much as a million dollars (£620,000) for just a few hours’ work, brokering negotiations in a mining deal involving the conglomerate Glencore and the Qatari ruling family.
According to reports, he was brought into the negotiations by Michael Klein, a New York financier, who advised on the deal. It is suggested that Mr Blair and Mr Klein are in talks about a “commercial alliance” which, if true, would raise Mr Blair’s earnings potential even further.
Mr Blair’s friendships with world leaders and other figures of influence would be a good fit with Mr Klein’s contacts in global finance.
A spokesman for Mr Blair said: “There is no 'trading team’. One of the businesses is FSA-regulated and those staff registered carry out their work within FSA permissions.
“Tony Blair and Michael Klein have worked on a couple of things together and may do so again in the future — they are not in talks about merging.”
A statement on one of Mr Blair’s various websites explains that financial statements for Firerush and Windrush, published last week, “do not represent his earnings or the earnings of his business and are not referable to them”. The statement went on: “The profit of the Windrush Group (£3.6million) is money that is being held in the company for re-investment in expanding the business. There is a total of £909,000 payable in corporation tax on the group profit.
“As a smaller company Firerush only publishes abbreviated accounts. It again is a company that is solely for the costs of the business. The £68,000 therefore represents the surplus on the running costs; on which corporation tax is paid. The money made by Mr Blair and the employees from Firerush business is subject to full personal income tax; and is not published in these accounts. Mr Blair continues to be a UK taxpayer and pays full personal tax on all his earnings worldwide.”