Tory grandee who runs shadowy fund

Chris Blackhurst profiles Sir Nigel Mobbs, overseer of the party's `front' to tap industry and City firms for cash
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It comes as no surprise that Sir Nigel Mobbs should be chairing the Conservatives' anonymous fund-raising group, the City and Industrial Liaison Council.

For few businessmen have so successfully straddled the twin worlds of commerce and politics as Sir Nigel, 58. Neither are many people so closely identified with one place.

His chosen patch is Slough, reviled by Sir John Betjeman but for Sir Nigel a place of serious influence and wealth.

Since joining Slough Estates, the property company, in 1961, after school at Marlborough College and university at Christ Church, Oxford, he has based himself in the town.

He now runs Slough Estates which, under his stewardship, has grown to be one of the country's biggest property developers,managing a portfolio worth pounds 1.8bn, and is chairman of Corporate Health, formerly Slough Occupational Health Service, and of Slough Social Fund.

He is president of the Buckinghamshire Association of Boys' Clubs and head of the Council of the University of Buckingham.

Nationally, he used to be chairman of Kingfisher and is on the board of Barclays Bank.

Neither have quangos passed him by. He served on the Property Services Agency Advisory Board and on the Department of Trade and Industry's deregulation panel. He is also a member of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Married with three children, he was knighted in 1986. He is a member of the "board of treasurers" of leading businessmen assembled by Charles Hambro at Tory Central Office.

He has made no secret of his party affiliations, once writing to a newspaper claiming that companies are subject to tighter rules on disclosure than trade unions. "There is a legal requirement on companies, public and private, to declare in their accounts any donations they make to political parties," wrote Sir Nigel. "There is no such legal requirement on unions."

Last week's council meeting with Ian Lang, President of the Board of Trade, was at the invitation of Arthur Andersen & Co, although an Andersen spokesman said yesterday that the event was hosted by an individual partner, not the firm.

Andersen, which was reportedly blacklisted by the Government over its role as auditor for De Lorean, the sports-car firm that was backed by public money and collapsed in 1982, has tried to rehabilitate itself in Whitehall.

A writ from the Government seeking negligence damages of pounds 168m apart, Andersen has still been picking up government work. Its autonomous consultancy side, Andersen Consulting, has received government contracts worth more than pounds 50m since the dispute with its accountancy division began. Other branches of government, including the Ministry of Defence, have also awarded contracts to Andersen.