Ashcroft Affair: The enigmatic deal-maker who treasures his party links

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The Independent Online
ONE ACQUAINTANCE has described Michael Ashcroft as the Scarlet Pimpernel in so far as he inhabited many different realms simultaneously.

It was a back-handed way of praising the Tory party's treasurer as a man of consummate skill in operating at many levels of politics and high finance.

Mr Ashcroft, despite being one of Britain's richest citizens, is one of its most enigmatic. Mr Ashcroft, 53, is Britain's 14th richest man, a billionaire child of the Thatcher years who made his money in a series of audacious, flamboyant deals that shocked the City and brought huge wealth.

His donations to the Tory party earned him the title of party treasurer and with it the ear of William Hague and the Conservative chairman, Michael Ancram.

Chichester-born Mr Ashcroft is a consummate deal-maker. He began his own cleaning business at the age of 26 with a pounds 15,000 bank loan and, within four years, had sold out to Reckitt and Colman for pounds 1m.

He then turned his attentions to Hawley Goodall, an ailing stock market- listed tent maker which he used as a vehicle for acquiring a host of other companies.

Business boomed but he relocated to Florida, where he lives now, and moved his business interests to Bermuda after a falling out with the City and its "snob" culture.

In 1987 he bought ADT, the security and motor auctions group, for pounds 635m. In 1997, he sold out to Tyco International, a United States and Bermuda- based fire and safety systems specialist, for $4bn (pounds 2.5bn) - his share was pounds 154m. He still retains a 0.5 per cent interest in Tyco, worth $312m and a place on the board, for which he is paid $65,000 a year.

In Belize his interests are legion. He owns the Bank of Belize, which was granted exclusive rights to set up offshore companies for British and American citizens. He possesses dual British and Belize nationality and is Belize's representative in the United Nations.

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