An explosive new book, serialised exclusively in the Mail, has exposed how the Blairs have amassed a vast fortune since Tony stood down as Prime Minister.
On Saturday, we told how he had turned himself into ‘a human cash register’. Today, we reveal how Cherie has also made her fortune — and how the couple have grown apart since revelations about Tony and Rupert Murdoch’s wife . . .
Today, seven years after leaving Downing Street, Tony and Cherie Blair live very separate lives. When he stopped being Prime Minister, they appear to have lost that instinctive feel for each other that had made them such a formidable and mutually supporting couple. These days, their business empires are entirely separate. They do not work together and are seldom seen together.
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Just six months ago the newspapers were full of Cherie — her 60th birthday approaching — with her daughter Kathryn at a charity function in London. Of Tony there was no sign whatsoever.
Middle East sources have told us that Cherie is never with him on the two to three days a month he spends in the region in his capacity as peace-building envoy for the United Nations-led Quartet.
She does go to the region for her own business, but always at times when he is not there. Not one of the numerous Middle East correspondents we spoke to remembered seeing the Blairs together in recent times.
Neighbours at their grand London home in Connaught Square, Bayswater, report the same thing. Cherie is seen a lot, wandering about the huge house, going to the odd community event and looking depressed. Tony is seldom around, and they are never seen together.
What is going on in their once very visibly close marriage? Might they even divorce? We put these questions to two people who know the Blairs very well.
The first paused for a very long time and then said: ‘I can only say that, if Cherie were contemplating divorce, Tony would do everything he possibly could to dissuade her.’
The other said: ‘She’ll never divorce him. If he ever was proved to have had an affair, her hatred of the media would be greater than her hatred of him.’
Blair never personally comments on rumours except to deny them.
There is also, of course, the fact they are both Catholics and their church forbids divorce, but their Catholicism is sufficiently flexible for him to overcome that obstacle.
How has it come to this? There seem to be two reasons.
First, the Downing Street years took their toll on the marriage. Against her better judgment, Cherie was persuaded by him to take a prominent role in his public life.
HOW TWO OF THEIR SONS WORK AT BLAIR TOWERS
Cherie is actively involved in the careers of two of her sons. The eldest, Euan, 30, started out working for merchant bank Morgan Stanley, but then took a job with the Australian employment agency Sarina Russo Job Access. He is now listed as Acting CEO and works in its London office.
Rather oddly, that office is on the seventh floor of 1 Great Cumberland Place, the concrete block overlooking Hyde Park which also houses the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, the Cherie Blair Foundation For Women and the Cherie Blair Organisation.
The Sarina Russo agency is massive in Australia and now expanding rapidly in Britain, where it has eight offices and employs almost 100 people. It owes its meteoric rise in this country to one contract — a Government contract to do with the welfare-to-work programme.
The Government sends it unemployed young people and the firm trains them in how to write a CV, how to dress for interviews and so on. It does so as a sub-contractor of Serco, the Government outsourcing company.
But why the agency needs to be run from what is increasingly dubbed ‘Blair Towers’ is a mystery.
Cherie is also helping her second son, Nicky, develop a sports management business called Magnitude. This is an ‘e-sports business’, which manages teams competing on computer games online for prize money. It is also trying to operate as an agency representing footballers.
Nicky owns 40 per cent of the business and another 40 per cent is owned by his business partner Gabriel Moraes. Cherie is a director and holds the remaining 20 per cent stake.
Cherie takes an active interest in the business. She took time out of her busy schedule to meet a promising 17-year-old Mexican footballer by the name of Raul Mendiola, who has signed up Magnitude as his agent.
Magnitude, which began as a limited company, posted a loss of nearly £17,000 in 2010 — the last year for which accounts are available — and in 2013 it was turned into a partnership, which will mean that it no longer has to file full accounts with Companies House. And, surprise, surprise, Nicky has a desk and dedicated phone line in the Blair office building in Cumberland Place. It is also his business address.
This arrangement came under scrutiny from Westminster Council when officials made an unannounced visit and were concerned that Cherie might be breaking council tax rules by using an office for her two charities — for which she gets an 80 per cent discount on business rates — alongside a commercial undertaking.
But in fact, Nicky’s phone line and desk were in the offices of Omnia Strategy, which pays full business rates.
She would rather have concentrated on her legal career — the highly lucrative one that had seen them through financially when he was just an up-and-coming politician. Instead, she was forced into the role of consort, for which she was not at all suited.
Many politicians and friends of the Blairs told us that she had a thoroughly raw deal at No 10, pilloried by the Press and not protected by his spin doctors, who gave priority to the Prime Minister and too often left her hanging out to dry. To this day, she harbours resentments that may have damaged the marriage.
Admittedly, she could also be her own worst enemy — too greedy for the trappings of power, too eager to grab any freebies going.
This was not just media talk. Greg Dyke tells a story of how, when he was a director of Manchester United in the late Nineties, Cherie telephoned him from Downing Street to ask if he could get her discounted United shirts for her children.
Dyke said she could have them free. She replied that she could not take them without payment as they would have to be declared as a gift — but she would like a discount, please.
To observers, such behaviour seemed bizarre and unworthy of her position in the land. It did her reputation harm — and, by extension, his, too.
But it was not just the media that turned on her. It was the relentless Downing Street New Labour machine as well. She was used as a lightning rod for Blair.
The second reason is the rumours of his affairs with other women. Despite his office’s consistent denials, the persistence of those stories cannot have done anything but undermine their relationship.
Then a year ago media magnate Rupert Murdoch, to whom Blair had been close for nearly 20 years, ended his marriage to his very much younger wife Wendi Deng after concluding from entries in her diaries that she had developed a crush on Blair. Murdoch was distressed to discover that the two of them had twice spent time together in secret at his ranch in California when he was away. The 83-year-old Murdoch believes Blair alienated her affections.
Relations between the two men — which began back in 1995 when the media magnate invited the then leader of the Opposition to address one of his luxury corporate conferences and then, impressed by his dynamism, took Blair under his wing — have now broken down completely.
Blair protests his innocence. He telephoned an old business associate in the U.S. and assured him he was not having an affair with Wendi. But the business associate, who also knows Murdoch well, told him that Murdoch thought it was true and did not believe his denials.
The upshot, according to a report in the Guardian, is that Murdoch doesn’t take Blair’s calls and Blair has now stopped trying. ‘There’s nothing Tony can do at the moment,’ said an unnamed source. ‘Rupert won’t see him, he just won’t countenance it.’
This matters terribly to Blair. It will not affect how the British perceive him, and he has pretty well given up hope of salvaging his reputation here. But it does affect how the Americans see him, not only because extra-marital affairs are more damaging there but because the affronted Murdoch carries considerable weight among the rich and powerful.
While Blair deals with these uncomfortable blips in his otherwise charmed (and hugely profitable) new life, Cherie has switched her own life around. She has shrugged off her image as the political wife trailing behind her go-getting husband and spread her wings and now fronts her own burgeoning business empire.