The Termineater

The man who plugged the hole in Labour's finances presides over a restaurant empire worth $3 billion. Planet Hollywood boss Robert Earl, says Ian Burrell, has amassed his fortune by an ability to rub shoulders with the stars and a talent to persuade his clients that they can do the same.

He is Mr Eatertainment. A five-foot-five, squeaky-voiced north Londoner who has gone from waiting tables at The Savoy to become the king of themed restaurants.

Robert Earl's influence on Nineties global culture is such that the presence of one of his Planet Hollywood burger joints is now widely-regarded as a key credential for anywhere claiming status as a world city.

New York had the first back in 1991. Others have opened in Paris, London, Moscow, Bangkok, Hong Kong and Sydney, each with queues of people prepared to wait an hour or more to be seated.

Mr Earl's skill has been to recognise the unceasing public desire to spend their leisure time surrounded by the images and accoutrements of the rich and famous. He is able to provide them with this environment because of his own astonishing ability to ingratiate himself with the stars themselves. Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Demi Moore were all persuaded to become shareholders in Planet Hollywood and are almost guaranteed to turn up at the opening of any new addition to the chain.

The Planet Hollywood experience involves dining amongst such knick-knackery as Jayne Mansfield's swimsuit, Marilyn Monroe's underwear, or even the pump used by Alec Guinness to detonate the explosives under The Bridge Over the River Kwai.

Real aficionados collect Planet Hollywood T-shirts from the various branches around the world. Some will even part with pounds 195 for a PH leather bomber jacket.

The cocktail list is a further reminder of your famous hosts. The "Terminator" (pounds 5.50) is described as a cyborg's mixture of vodka, rum, gin, Grand Marnier, Tia Maria, Kahlua, sweet and sour, cranberry juice and draught beer that will leave you saying "I'll be back".

Though critics dismissed his project as "Planet Hype", Mr Earl, 46, has a long term view. He has already established new contacts with rising stars like Will Smith, Johnny Depp and George Clooney.

When he opened in Melbourne, two months ago, Aussie cricketer Shane Warne (another partner of Mr Earl's) arrived on a Harley-Davidson, basketball star Shaquille O'Neal rapped to the crowd, and athlete Michael Johnson glided across the red carpet before Sly finally arrived to the inevitable soundtrack of the Rocky theme.

No wonder Peter Mandelson turned to Mr Earl for help when he was looking to drum up celebrity interest for the relaunching of the flagging Millennium Project.

By 2000, Earl hopes to sit astride a galactic empire of more than 100 Planet Hollywoods. "I want to create the largest and most successful leisure company in the world. I want the recognition of that more than the cash but I see no reason why I can't make this group worth $20 billion [pounds 13 billion]," he says.

Aside from the big names of film and sports, Mr Earl has been able to attract the financial backing of some of the world's wealthiest men. Ong Beng Seng, the Singaporean billionaire, is one of his partners. Another is Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, the nephew of King Fahd of Saudi Arabia.

The billionaire Prince has joined Earl in another venture, the Official All Star Cafe, a sports themed restaurant chain backed by tennis stars Andre Agassi and Monica Seles. When the London branch opens at the Pepsi Trocadero next year Tiger Woods and Alan Shearer are expected to attend.

Earl is the son of a 1950s crooner and a mother who ran a clothing business. Now he has a home in Orlando, Florida and one in St John's Wood, London. As a catering student he cut his entrepreneurial teeth by founding a string of themed banqueting halls before the Rank Organisation recruited him to develop the international chain of Hard Rock cafes, which are now his main rival.

Among his other plans is a chain called "Chefs of the World", backed by some of the world's most famous cooks and incorporating a television channel and cookery school.

Last month it emerged that he was linking up with MTV, the cable TV network, to create a giant music and entertainment venue in the centre of London, called the Asylum.

The budget for the launch party, which Madonna is lined-up to attend, is pounds 1m - the same amount Mr Earl paid to bale out the Labour Party.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

    £35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

    Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

    £45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

    Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

    £60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

    Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

    £25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power