Planet Hollywood man plugs the pounds 1m hole in Labour's finances

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The Independent Online
The creator of Planet Hollywood, the restaurant chain also owned by Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis and Sylvester Stallone, has plugged the pounds 1m hole in the Labour Party's finances caused by the Bernie Ecclestone affair.

Robert Earl, the Florida-based multi-millionaire businessman, made his donation to the Labour Party public yesterday, admitting that he gave money to the Conservatives under John Major.

Mr Earl, who has been consulted about the Millennium by Peter Mandelson, Minister Without Portfolio, said he would be encouraging other tycoons to back Tony Blair financially.

This month, the chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, Sir Patrick Neill, advised Labour to return the donation from Mr Ecclestone, leaving the party searching for pounds 1m - equivalent to its running costs for a year.

Mr Earl, 45, president of Planet Hollywood, said: "I want to express my support for Tony Blair and the Labour Party. I have no hidden agenda, no policy I wish to influence, no favour to curry on my own behalf or to benefit my company."

Mr Earl, a Surrey University catering graduate, is believed to be the world's richest restaurateur. He first made money from President Entertainments, running themed restaurants and old-English banquets. He ran the Hard Rock burger chain before falling out with its founder. Mr Earl walked away with pounds 30m from Hard Rock, which he used to create Planet Hollywood together with the three film stars.

Mr Earl is well connected in New Labour. He is a regular on the premiere circuit, hosting parties and showbusiness spectaculars. He lives near Orlando, Florida, and has a home in St John's Wood, north London.

Last night some critics were raising questions about any policy impact of Labour's new friend from the restaurant business. Two national associations representing hotels and restaurants have called for exemptions for their industry from Labour's proposed national minimum wage.

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