Tony Blair Associates
Tony Blair Associates is an organisation set up by Tony Blair that allows him, in collaboration with others, to provide both commercial and pro bono advice to governments.
What they claim to do
According to the website:
- 'We work with governments on the path of reform providing advice and support on key areas of governance, modernisation and implementation'.
- 'We provide geopolitical and strategic advice to multinational corporations'.
- 'We bring together institutional investors with potential investment opportunities'.
- 'Tony Blair's commercial activities provide important funding for his philanthropic work'.
What the critics say
Despite Blair claiming he nudges the governments on the path of reform, many believe it highlights his lack of moral fibre and allows him to clock up millions of pounds in consultancy fees by working with countries that others refuse to.
The money earned by Tony Blair Associates is used to subsidise Blair's philanthropic work. He has four main companies; The Tony Blair Faith Foundation, which promotes dialogue among faiths; The Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative, which continues the work of his commission for Africa set up before Britain’s G8 presidency in 2005; The Tony Blair Sports Foundation, which helps aspiring young sportspeople in the north-east of England; and Breaking the Deadlock, a foundation that tackles climate change.
The complex web that Blair has woven with his businesses makes it extremely hard to know how much money Blair has earned, so much so that the Guardian newspaper sent out an open invitation to tax specialists and accountants to attempt to shed some light on it.
It is estimated that Tony Blair Associates has earned more than $70m since 2007, however Blair insists that all profits from the company go into his charities. He also insists he pays all of his taxes in Britain.
Blair claims that his business model is simple and the only purpose for the complex web of companies absorbed under a private trust is to stop vindictive journalists from prying into his affairs.
In 2014 it was reported that Blair had been advising the president of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, on how to manage his image after unarmed civilians protesting against his regime were killed. In 2011, the Telegraph obtained a letter from Blair to Nazarbayev in which he told the president that the deaths of 14 protesters, 'tragic though they were, should not obscure the enormous progress' his country had made. Blair then went on to suggest paragraphs that Nazarbayev should include in his 2012 speech at the University of Cambridge.
In November 2010, Tony Blair Associates drew up a contract for a lucrative business deal with PetroSaudi International, an oil company founded by the late King Abdullah and other senior members of the Saudi royal family. The deal involved promoting PetroSaudi to Chinese leaders in exchange for £41,000 a month and a 2 per cent cut of any deal it helps broker.
In 2013 he agreed to advise the Vietnamese government on reforming their economy, attracting more foreign investment and adapting to climate change. The agreement came after Barack Obama warned of a 'mass crackdown on citizen journalism in Vietnam' and amid criticism of the government for an attack on political blogs and lobby group Human Rights Watch warned that the government suppresses 'virtually all forms of political dissent, using a broad array of repressive measures'.
In 2013 Tony Blair Associates won a contract to advise the Peruvian government on public sector reform.
Through his African Governance Initiative, Blair provides pro bono advice to Sierra Leone, Guinea, Rwanda, Liberia, Malawi and South Sudan. Questions raised about conflicts of interests posed by this pro bono work have included whether his influence in Guinea gives him influence to push through deals in the interests of his commercial associates, such as the bank JPMorgan Chase or Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska?
In July 2014 the Guardian reported that Blair, via Tony Blair Associates, had agreed to advise the Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who came to power in a military coup last year, 'as part of a programme funded by the United Arab Emirates that has promised to deliver huge business opportunities to those involved'. During the military coup that allowed Sisi to come to power, it is estimated he killed more than 2,500 protesters and jailed more than 20,000 over the past year. It was believed that Blair would be giving advice on economic reform to Sisi in collaboration with a UAE-financed taskforce in Cairo. The taskforce is being run by management consultancy Strategy&, formerly Booz and Co, now part of PricewaterhouseCoopers, with the aim of attracting investment into Egypt's crisis-ridden economy at a forthcoming Egypt donors' conference sponsored by oil rich countries UAE, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
After the article was published, Blair dismissed the news as 'nonsense', saying that it is important for the region that Egypt succeeds in reforming itself. Conversely, a spokesperson for Tony Blair Associates told the Guardian Blair will be giving advice and will have meetings but that is all, he will not be looking at any business opportunities in Egypt or make any personal gain and his organisations will not make any money out of the advisory position.
Between 2011 and 2013 Blair visited Guinea at least seven times, working as an adviser to the president of Guinea, Alpha Conde. He helped Guinea sign a £3 billion mining deal with Mubadala, an Abu Dhabi investment fund, a company which Blair also advises.
Blair's work with Rwanda and the country's president, Paul Kagame, has come under great scrutiny. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office took five times the statutory maximum of 20 days to respond to a freedom of information request on the subject from The Times. During his presidency Kagame has faced serious questions about his sponsorship of violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo and how his critics have been silenced, with many murdered. Rwanda has also received more than £500 million in British aid, which Blair has urged Britain not to end.
Blair was hired to advise a BP-led consortium on the export of natural gas from Azerbaijan to Europe. He will join former German foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher and the chairman of Goldman Sachs International, Peter Sutherland, (also a former chairman of BP), on an advisory panel set up by BP and its partners.
The consortium will be developing Shah Deniz 2, a natural gasfield in the Caspian Sea, with the aim of reducing the reliance on Russian supplies. The gas will be shipped through two pipelines, Tanap which will run the length of Turkey and TAP running to Italy via Greece and Albania. The project will cost $45 billion and is backed by the EU.
- Jonathan Powell, former chief of staff to Blair from 1995 to 2007 and chief British negotiator on Northern Ireland in the decade up to 2007. Powell notified the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments that he would be taking up a role in February 2009 as a senior adviser with Tony Blair Associates.
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Nicholas Watt How Tony Blair paved way for first visit by serving British PM to Kazakhstan The Guardian, 30 June 2013, accessed 3 February 2015
- Tony Blair Office, Tony Blair Associates, accessed 3 February 2015
- Nicholas Watt Tony Blair's empire mixes business and philanthropy The Guardian, 21 June 2013, accessed 3 February 2015
- The Africa Report Lobbying in Africa: Nightmare on K street, 28 November 2014, accessed 3 February 2015
- David Leigh and Ian Griffiths The mystery of Tony Blair's finances Guardian, 1 December 2009, accessed 4 February 2015
- Robert Mendick Tony Blair gives Kazakhstan’s autocratic president tips on how to defend a massacre Telegraph, 24 August 2014, accessed 4 February 2015
- Jon Ungoed-Thomas and Richard Kerbaj £41,000 a month and 2%: Blair names his price in secret deal with Saudis Sunday Times, 9 November 2014, accessed 4 February 2015
- Jon Ungoed-Thomas Blair’s secret cash-for-contacts deal with Saudis Sunday Times, 9 November 2014, accessed 4 February 2015
- Tony Blair strikes new deals to advise Vietnam and Peru Telegraph, 8 September 2013, accessed 4 February 2015
- Seumas Milne Tony Blair to advise Egypt president Sisi on economic reform The Guardian, 2 July 2014, accessed 3 February 2015
- Haaretz, Tony Blair denies he signed on as Egyptian president's adviser, 3 July 2014, accessed 3 February 2015
- Robert Mendick Tony Blair and the Africa mine deal Telegraph, 15 December 2013, accessed 4 February 2015
- The Blair Pitch Project The Times, 30 January 2015, accessed 4 February 2015
- Guy Chazan Tony Blair to advise on Azerbaijan gas project Financial Times, 17 July 2014, accessed 4 February 2015
- Tenth Report 2008-2009 Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, accessed 4 February 2015