Andrew Rosenfeld: Businessman who made a fortune from property then became a noted philanthropist and Labour Party donor


Marcus Williamson
Friday 13 February 2015 20:05

Andrew Rosenfeld, who has died aged 52, was an entrepreneur who made a £100 million fortune from property development through his company, Minerva, and ploughed back considerable sums into supporting charitable causes and the Labour Party.

Rosenfeld was born in 1962 and studied at South Bank Polytechnic (now London South Bank University), graduating with a degree in estate management. He joined Schroders property funds division, indicating in a later interview his reasoning: “They paid more money than anyone else and my father had always said one of the keys to property is finance.” But he soon found himself restricted by the big-company mentality and left to join a smaller firm. “I felt myself being held back within nine months. I remember getting close to doing my first deal and people older than me didn’t like it. So I thought: ‘Sod that, I’m off!’”

After flirting with a number of other roles, in 1986 he was invited by David Garrard to join Land Investors as a director. They made a formidable pair. “We have exactly the same business principles,” Rosenfeld said. “He’s 24 years older, so there’s no competition between us.” Minerva, their property development enterprise, was established in 1989, funded by bank loans, and floated on the stock market seven years later.

By 2006, when Rosenfeld left the company, its market value had risen to around £500 million, making him £100 million from the sale of his stake. He said at the time, “Leaving Minerva was never going to be easy. However, I have ambitious new plans which cannot be properly fulfilled if I continue in my current role.” Part of these plans involved selling his £5.5 million London home to a Liechtenstein-based trust and moving to Geneva, where he based his new company, Air Capital, for tax purposes.

The same year Rosenfeld became caught up in the “cash for honours” scandal which hit the Labour Party. A legal loophole at the time meant that donations to political parties had to be disclosed but loans did not. In March 2006 a number of individuals, including Rosenfeld, who were nominated for life peerages by Tony Blair, were also found to be lenders to the party. A police investigation was launched.

Following a 16-month enquiry, the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to bring any charges against the individuals involved. The positive outcome of the scandal was that it led to a change in the law on loans to political parties. Deputy Labour Leader Harriet Harman said at the time, “After the allegations, we did change the law to make sure that loans, as well as donations, have to be disclosed and made public.”

Until 2007 Rosenfeld was involved with the NSPCC’s FULL STOP campaign, which raised around £250 million for the children’s charity. Mark Wood, chairman of the NSPCC, told The Independent: “Andrew was the chairman of the FULL STOP appeal, launched in 2001 to bring an end to child abuse. He worked with enormous energy and enthusiasm and was the focus for a huge range of events with a large number of people. In many ways this fund-raising transformed the charity, making it able to carry out the work it does today.”

Rosenfeld returned to the UK in April 2011. The following year he became Labour’s “chair of nations and regions”, responsible for managing fund-raising and the party’s engagement with the electorate, especially in marginal seats. In a 2013 interview he spoke of his desire to improve the way the party communicated with its supporters, asking, “How do I best build a relationship with you so that you feel that you have a proper mature dialogue with me and the Party, so that you can help in whatever way you feel interests you? It may be endorsing Ed or a local MP. It may be a small level of fund-raising, it may be a larger level of fund-raising.”

A keen Tottenham Hotspur fan, Rosenfeld relished the time away from work football gave him. “Football’s a good thing,” he said. “In a very busy week, it’s the only isolation that I can have for two hours when the phone is off.”

He founded The People’s Operator (TPO), a telecommunications company which gives a quarter of its annual profits to charities including the NSPCC, Childline and Big Issue. Rosenfeld commented on the social advantage provided by such a business model, saying, “The People’s Operator represents a fundamental shift in the way commercial utilities support communities and causes. The more profit that is generated, the more we can pass on to deserving parts of society.”

Mark Epstein, CEO of TPO, described him as a “business partner, a mentor, a friend” and told The Independent, “Andrew would often say doing 90 per cent of something well was the easy part. But the difference between success or failure rests in getting the last 10 per cent right. He taught me never to forget how important getting that last 10 per cent right was. He also used to say being average was easy but doing things exceptionally well takes dedication and focus. He taught me to never accept average and he was truly one of the most exceptional people I will ever know.”

By 2013, Rosenfeld had overtaken Labour’s previous highest donor, JK Rowling, to become the largest donor to the Party in its history, following a donation of £1 million in addition to the £500,000 given the previous year.

Andrew Rosenfeld, businessman and philanthropist: born 27 April 1962; married firstly Nicola (marriage dissolved; four children), 2014 Juliet Soskice; died 8 February 2015.

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