October 28, 2008


There’s been a lot of hype in the press recently about Peter Mandelson’s and George Osborne’s sojourn on a Russian billionaire’s yacht in Corfu. And how politicians are too easily bowled over by a freebie holiday.

As a result, we have the sleazy spectacle of a Labour Business Secretary and a Tory Shadow Chancellor exchanging insults about who behaved more shabbily on Oleg Deripaska's yacht. As for George Osborne, all he's accused of is trying to find a legal way for Deripaska to donate £50,000 to the Tory party. An amount he'd probably have found down the back of one of the yacht's sofas and which wouldn't have paid for a spin nurse, let alone a spin doctor.

And as for Peter Mandelson, questions are still being asked. The Sunday Times alone has been doggedly gnawing at the bone on its front page for the past three weeks...

Indeed, it’s all too easy to dismiss such behaviour as outright grubby and sordid. Yet should you find yourself in an environment of extreme wealth and utter luxury - an environment to which you are not wholly accustomed - it would take some superhuman willpower not to be wowed. Not to mention seduced.

I mention this since I had the great good fortune to experience this way of life at first hand, albeit for a short period. Or should I say misfortune since, like the old cliché, it’s only when you see for yourself how the super rich live that you start to understand that, yes, they are different

My own brush with the super rich (and quite famous) took place in the heady days of the early nineties when Sloanes and Thatcherite excess went hand in hand. My partner (P) was working as CFO (Chief Financial Officer) for an extremely successful entrepreneur (E) who had set up a large number of companies. Together with the Chairman, P and E formed what came to be known as the Triumvirate running this mini empire stretching across several continents.

As was usual in that pre-credit crunch era - when mergers, acquisitions and MBOs (Management Buy Outs) were commonplace - P worked all God’s hours and then some (as colleagues in the U.S. put it) to ensure the company’s continuing profitability. (A source of tension then as now, it has to be said). Nevertheless he was well remunerated and we also found ourselves in private marquees at all the events of the ‘season’ - Chelsea, Henley, Wimbledon, Ascot - plus seats at Glyndebourne, Covent Garden etc.

Moreover, since P and E also became close friends in the course of all the frantic, highly charged late-night business activity, E also insisted on showing his gratitude in other ways. Namely the loan of his superb ocean-going yacht (pictured above) that has featured in a number of films including the Bond movie, The Living Daylights.

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