What do you do if you don't want money?

You don't deal in stately homes. You don't send clients to a dodgy financial guru. You don't play a crook on TV. Adam Faith has done all these things and is now worth at least pounds 11m.
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The Independent Culture
Would you buy second-hand financial advice from this man? Adam Faith has spent the best part of 40 years playing to perfection the role of wide-boy charmer, dreamboat spiv, metropolitan ducker and diver. Many years before The Fast Show gave us the Professional Cockney, Faith was it - a little bit whoa, a little whay, a little bit tasty.

A pop star with no interest in pop, an actor with no training or range but a prodigious capacity for playing himself, he found his metier as a businessman early on, investing in country houses when still in his mid-20s. Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran wrote the character of Frank Carver in Love Hurts - the former plumber turned millionaire financier, scared of emotional commitment - with him in mind.

Keith Waterhouse wrote Budgie specially for him. Bill Naughton did not write Alfie specifically for him, but he has embodied the role of amoral charmer and chauvinist to perfection in touring productions. Worries about type-casting are unlikely to have bothered a man who has only ever played one role.

Budgie ran for only 26 episodes between 1971 and 1972, but is fondly remembered for its depiction of a small-time crook with a girlfriend called `Azel and a terrifying boss called Charlie Endell, played by the fruity Scots ham Iain Cuthbertson.

Faith's character was a guy to be laughed at, sympathised with, even fancied; but he was never a man you'd let anywhere near your wallet. So is this really the person who will, next year, be the acceptable face of middle-class shareholding? The chap in whose share-tipping skills we can place our trust? Apparently.

As anchorman of The Money Channel, of which he is managing director and 15 per cent shareholder, he will be doing something new: providing a 24- hour rolling format of news and analysis couched in easy-to-understand terminology and aimed squarely at an audience of British small investors who wouldn't hitherto have known a bull market from a bag of marbles.

You might dismiss the whole thing as the latest enterprise from an operator who has dabbled in finance for decades, who used to sit conducting business in the Fountains Restaurant in Fortnum and Mason until he became a director of the Savoy and switched his "office" to an armchair in the hotel's front lobby. But there are impressive signs that this venture will fly.

Started three years ago with the backing of Killik & Co, a firm of City stockbrokers, the Channel floated its stock in June at 22p a share and has just seen the price leap to pounds 2.40 (making Mr Faith's holding a cool pounds 11.4m). Second, The Money Channel cut a deal last month with BSkyB, to broadcast its programmes to digital subscribers. Third, Faith got Granada Media, the biggest seller of airtime and sponsorship in the UK, on board to sell air time for The Money Channel.

Fourth, the American data provider firm Primark has agreed to buy five per cent of the Channel, thus giving them access to stock prices, charts and specialist market information. The whole enterprise starts in February, its premises a former industrial estate in Wapping, east London, that's currently being transformed into television studios at a cost of pounds 6.5m. Wapping, eh? The image of the East End charmer with his acrylic car coat, his Hamlet cigar and cry (remember when Faith played David Essex's manager in Stardust?) of "Fancy a drink" is hard to shake off, even when you remember that Faith was actually born in west London, and his real name is Terence Nelhams. His father was a coach driver, his mother an office cleaner. The family of six slept in three rooms in an Acton council flat. Terence escaped the grip of school at 15, worked at the Rank Organisation as a messenger at 15, and started singing in the Soho 2 I's cafe. He wangled a slot on the Six-Five Special, television pop show, where Jack Good liked the look of the flaxen-mopped adolescent and re-christened him by looking in the A and F chapters of Choose a Name For Your Baby.

The young pop star sounded weird beyond belief ("Someone else's boy-eeb- boy ...") but the young girls squealed and wet themselves. He had several hits (most especially, and ironically, "What Do You Want If You Don't Want Money?", unless of course you count "I'm A Survivor") before giving it up.

Faith was always moving on. He always seemed keen to better himself. Interviewed by the vertiginously snotty John Freeman on television's Face to Face as an example of Modern Youth, he was impressively un-star-struck and aspirational, promising the amused Freeman that he was "just about to start" reading Aldous Huxley.

He went into stage and film acting. But business was already coursing round his veins. Unable to join a company (for he had no training, no management skills and no departmental expertise) he elected to start companies himself.

He built up an extraordinary roster of business connections and friends, including FT 100 bigwigs like Lord Hanson, wheeled and dealed in stately homes, and managed the career of Leo Sayer, the pop-eyed crooner who had an inexplicable string of hits in the mid-Seventies.

Faith made a fortune. He could charm the boardroom and the typing pool with equal dexterity. He was charmed in turn by the gentlemanly embrace of the Square Mile. Ten years later, in the eye of the Thatcherite yuppie storm, he started a company to manage the income and affairs of well-heeled celebrities, including Sebastian Coe and Tessa Sanderson. Twelve months later, the stock market had slumped, the company went bust and Faith needed a heart by-pass operation.

Even worse followed when, in 1990, the Levitt financial services group crashed in flames with debts of pounds 40m and it was revealed that Faith had introduced numerous famous clients to the disgraced financial guru Roger Levitt. Many people (like Frederick Forsyth) discovered that their investments worth millions had disappeared around the S-bend.

As the police authorities investigated Levitt, some clients, introduced by Faith, attacked the former rocker. "Adam Faith is to financial advice," said Michael Winner caustically, "what Frank Bruno is to English literature".

But the advice remained. Before, during and after his crash, Faith has long been a prolific share tipster, writing columns in The Daily Mail and The Mail on Sunday, turning up on C4's Dosh, and acting as an investment consultant - and when his recommendations were once followed up by an outside agency, he was found to have out-performed the Stock Exchange by 8 per cent.

Now, after pop, television, movies, the stage, property, star management, car crash, helicopter crash and company crash, he is staking his future on his power to explain the arcana of finance to a wide audience and persuade suspicious investors to follow his guidance.

How he comes to know the City world so intimately is impossible to fathom. But the chances are we will take his advice, because he has charm and plausibility to burn. Just spare us the gory details ...