'Very polished' rough diamond Peter Cruddas joins Tory treasury team

New Conservative co-treasurer is a philanthropist who made his fortune brokering deals

Peter Cruddas, the latest multimillionaire to take on the role of co-treasurer of the Conservative Party, is the son of a Smithfield meat porter who made a fortune by being among the first to spot how the internet could be used to broker deals.

He made a successful political debut as co-treasurer and the biggest individual donor to the well-funded and successful No2AV campaign, to which he gave £400,000.

He has also been a lavish donor to the Conservative Party. He gave it £100,000 in the last quarter of 2010. He gave another £50,000 in the first week of last year's general election campaign. In total he is believed to have given the Tories £350,000.

At Conservative headquarters, they will be hoping that Mr Cruddas lasts in his new role longer than his putative predecessor, David Rowland, a billionaire property tycoon who agreed to take over in September last year. The announcement generated such a storm of controversy that in August Mr Rowland suddenly discovered he had too many business commitments and pulled out.

Mr Rowland lived abroad to avoid tax until 2009, and reportedly used exotic tax havens for his business dealings. His appointment by David Cameron was opposed both by Lord Ashcroft, another well-known former tax exile who served as deputy chairman of the Conservatives, and the former treasurer Michael Spencer.

Mr Cruddas also lived for several years in a tax haven favoured by the super-rich. He was one of the City's "Monaco boys", living in an apartment on the Avenue de Spélugues near Monte Carlo's famous casino. From there, it took him only an hour and 40 minutes to commute to work via London's City airport.

While he was in Monaco, Mr Cruddas paid UK tax on some of his income, though at a lower rate than if he had been in the UK. He has been domiciled in Britain for tax purposes for the past two years.

It is thought unlikely that any personal scandal will emerge to prevent him taking office. David Buik, of the City firm BGC Partners, said: "I can't believe for a single moment that the Conservative Party hasn't done a thorough check to make sure there are no skeletons in his closet. He is a really polished rough diamond, who has done very well. I have never heard anybody with an adverse thing to say about him."

Mr Cruddas, who left school at 15, has risen to be one of the wealthiest men in the City and a philanthropist whose declared ambition is to give away £100m to charities that help children from backgrounds similar to his own. The money is dispersed through the Peter Cruddas Foundation, which is chaired by the former Tory cabinet minister Lord Young. He is also the largest individual donor to the Duke of Edinburgh International Awards Association and a board member of the Prince's Trust.

He attributes his early success to the Boy Scouts, who taught him self-discipline and self-confidence. On his foundation's website, he wrote: "The Boy Scouts enabled me to escape a violent home situation and the inner city. I sincerely believe that I would not be where I am today had I not become a member."

In 1989, he was the head foreign exchange dealer at a City bank when he left to set up his own business, with £10,000 in the bank. The firm, CMC Markets, is like a bookmaker for the city, enabling dealers to place bets mainly on foreign currency movements.

It made £17.2m on a £152m turnover in 2009-10 and is now reckoned to be worth around £710m. Goldman Sachs bought 10 per cent of it for a reputed £140m a year before the banking crisis. Mr Cruddas and his family own 88 per cent.

With his other assets, it is reckoned that Mr Cruddas's personal wealth is around £750m. In one interview, he announced: "I've got a £10m apartment in Monaco, a £5m house in England, another fantastic house in Antibes, a yacht and a private jet." He has also been known to show off a £200,000 platinum watch, claiming that he owns 15 more.

He will now share the task of fundraising for the Conservative Party with his fellow co-treasurer, Lord Fink, the so-called "father" of the British hedge fund industry.

Lord Fink said: "I am delighted that Peter is joining as co-treasurer of the Conservative Party and I greatly look forward to working with him in the coming years."