Legatum Institute

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The Legatum Institute is a London-based 'international think tank'.

It says its work is focused on 'understanding, measuring, and explaining the journey from poverty to prosperity for individuals, communities, and nations'. [1]

Its key funder is a Dubai-based hedge fund controlled by Christopher Chandler, an intensely private billionaire originally from New Zealand.

Legatum is advocating a 'hard' Brexit.

Political influence

Legatum is described by a pro-EU critic of the institute as having ‘unparalleled access to Davis and Theresa May', which 'seems to have been at the origin of some of the preposterous positions on Brexit taken by the government so far'.[2]

Legatum’s Shanker Singham, says the Times ‘holds regular meetings with Brexit secretary David Davis and international trade secretary Liam Fox'.[3]According to the FT, Singham had met representatives of the Department for Exiting the European Union six times in the year to August 2017,[4] including permanent secretary Philip Rycroft in July and August 2017.

Legatum has also met with:

  • Michael Gove, environment secretary, in June 2017 to discuss 'EU Exit advice'.
  • Priti Patel, international development secretary, in February 2017 to discuss 'international development policy' alongside the Institute of Economic Affairs and others.
  • George Bridges, then Brexit minister in February 2017 and September 2016 to discuss the 'impact of UK exit from EU'
  • Boris Johnson, foreign secretary, in December 2016 to discuss ‘ post-Brexit issues’
  • Nicky Morgan, then education secretary in November 2015 to discuss education and employment
  • Tobias Ellwood, then Foreign Office minister in November 2015.

Brexit influence

Legatum told the Times that it had never been anti-EU, merely seeking the “best possible Brexit”. However, its Director of Economic Policy, Shanker Singham, has taken a 'hard' Brexit position.

Singham is a vocal advocate of Britain leaving the European single market and customs union; he advocates unilaterally slashing some of our tariffs to let in cheaper exports (a move which would destroy the UK's small farmers); and proposes the setting up a giant free-trade zone of “like-minded nations” including Singapore, Switzerland and the US.

Singham has become one of the most influential figures in forging Britain’s post-Brexit trade policy, according to the Times. He holds regular meetings with Brexit secretary David Davis and international trade secretary Liam Fox, promoting his vision of a liberalised Britain pursuing free trade around the globe.[5]

In June 2017, he was also a guest of Brexit minister at the Foreign Office's country pile, Chevening House, which was attended by 33 of the UK's business leaders. Singham was the only 'think tanker' present.[6]

Since early 2017, it has also employed former CEO of the Vote Leave campaign, Matthew Elliott.

Special Trade Commission

In the wake of the Brexit vote, Legatum set up a Special Trade Commission. Its aim is to 'present a roadmap' for the UK's trade negotiations, which must be 'expansive'; and 're-focus the public discussion on Brexit to a positive conversation on opportunities, rather than challenges'.

Former Special Trade Commission members

Special Trade Commission members

The commission is an all-male line-up:

Special Trade Commission staff

Financial services lobbying

In July 2017 it was reported that the Legatum Institute had teamed up with another think tank, the Financial Services Negotiation Forum to create the Legatum Financial Services Forum. Their joint aim is to put pressure on government to secure a good Brexit deal for financial services. It is to be led by Legatum's Shanker Singham.[14]

The Financial Services Negotiation Forum was created after Brexit to give a platform for the financial services industry to make its voice heard during the process of leaving the EU.[15]

Prosperity UK conference

The institute acted as 'advisers' to the Prosperity UK Conference held in London on 26 April 2017, organised by hedge funder Paul Marshall and Lord Jonathan Hill.

Prosperity UK says it was created 'to encourage leaders from business, universities and policy-making to look constructively at Britain's future outside the European Union.'[16]

The director of Prosperity UK is Alex Hickman, co-director of Change Britain, formerly of Vote Leave and an ex-adviser to David Cameron and ex-CEO of Open Europe.[17]

Road to Brexit meeting

In October 2016 the Legatum Institute jointly published with the Centre for Social Justice a series of essays called 'Road to Brexit', which set out a blueprint for hard Brexit, the term describing Britain’s total departure from the EU.[18]

The publication is an account of a day long meeting held on 9 September between Ministers, senior officials from the Brexit departments, Number 10 and Cabinet Office and legal and trade experts, academics and former Cabinet Ministers. The meeting at Oxford University's All Souls College was to 'discuss how to progress the UK’s exit from the EU, the restoration of governing powers, and a good outcome for access to the rest of the EU’s markets.'

Among those present were: David Davis, the secretary of state for exiting the European Union; John Redwood who led the day's meeting; Peter Lilley; Iain Duncan Smith; Owen Paterson; Shanker Singham of the Legatum Institute; Sheila Lawlor, director of the think tank Politeia; James Arnell, Partner at Charterhouse Capital; Mark Gallagher of lobbying firm Pagefield; Bernard Jenkin and William Cash.


As of December 2017:

  • Baroness Philippa Stroud, CEO
  • Shanker Singham, Director of Economic Policy and Prosperity Studies; described in his biog as 'one of the world's leading trade and competition lawyers', Singham is a lawyer from Surrey with a 20-year career in the US and is a former trade advisor to the US government. Although, a one-time senior US trade official told the Times, he was surprised to see Singham described in the British press as a “former trade negotiator”. “He didn’t negotiate anything” on behalf of the US government, the former official said. “Trade negotiator is a bit of a stretch.”[19] Singham is also CEO of Competere Group, which says it has 'successfully engaged governments around the world who seek to harness the power of the market economy through a comprehensive pro-competitive regulatory framework'.[20] Singham's London-based firm Comptere Group has also joined with Washington lobby shop Transnational Strategy Group and the Brussels-based lobbying firm EPPA to 'create a Brexit practice group' to help companies understand the policy landscape and advise on strategy. They are, in other words, lobbyists-for-hire.[21] Singham formerly led the market access practice of US law firm Squire Patton Boggs. He is also an adviser to the International Competition Network
  • Nathan Gamester, Chief Operating Officer; also Executive Director of the Atlantic Partnership; former COO of the Centre for Social Justice
  • Alastair Masser, Director of Communications
  • Georgiana Bristol, corporate membership director. Also works part-time at BrexitCentral. Was head of regional fundraising for The Conservative Party and also ran the fundraising for the referendum campaigns Vote Leave in 2016 and NOtoAV in 2011.

Senior fellows

New appointments in January 2018:

  • Oliver Letwin, Conservative MP for West Dorset, joined Legatum in January 2018 to lead its 'The World Ahead' initiative.
  • Gisela Stuart, former Labour minister and MP for Birmingham Egbaston joined in January 2018 to chair Legatum's 'effective government' programme. [22]

As of December 2017:


As of December 2017, these include: Alden Abbott | Maurice Glasman | Nicholas Chance | Graeme Leach | Tim Montgomerie | Dr James Mumford | Andrea Hossó | Victoria Bateman | Nicholas Boys Smith | Reuben Abraham | Prof David Abulafia | Prof Nicholas Crafts | Carol Graham | Simon Mayall | Srinivasa Rangan

Former staff/fellows



Legatum says on its website that it is funded - its staff and premises in Mayfair - 'by the generosity of our founders through the Legatum Foundation'. This is the 'development arm' of the Legatum Group, the Dubai-based hedge fund of New Zealander Christopher Chandler.

According to Private Eye:

With his brother Richard, [Christopher Chandler] turned a family inheritance of $10m into $5bn... The Chandlers’ Sovereign Global Investment made money by finding undervalued assets the rest of market ignored, Richard explained – “transition economies or distressed sectors where information is not easily available and standard metrics don’t apply”. Sovereign was one of the first funds to pile into Brazil when the country opened to outside investors in 1991. It moved into Russia after the collapse of communism, and bought up assets in Japan and Korea during the banking crisis of the early 2000s.'[25]

After criticism of its dependence on one major donor, the Institute said it had a further 40 donors, whose names it does not disclose. Legatum told the FT it raised funding for its special trade commission — which spearheads its Brexit work — from a “number of individuals, trusts and corporates to cover the dedicated costs of their work”. [26]

It has also recieved funding from:

  • Paul Marshall, the Brexit-supporting hedge fund manager funded a 12-month research programme entitled 'A Vision for Capitalism', run by Conservative commentator and Legatum fellow, Tim Montgomerie who went on to edit UnHerd, a website backed by Marshall.[27]


According to libertarian activist Simon Clark, Legatum is affiliated to the Liberty League, whose purpose is "to help inform, recruit and develop supporters of liberty", among students.[28]




  1. About Us, Legatum Institute, accessed 21 October 2017
  2. Miriam González Durántez, How to beat the ticking Brexit clock: let British business leaders do the talking, Guardian, 18 July 2017
  3. Trade talks guru who urges a hard break with Brussels, the Times, 30 April 2017
  4. Legatum: the think-tank at intellectual heart of ‘hard’ Brexit, FT, 4 December 2017
  5. Trade talks guru who urges a hard break with Brussels, the Times, 30 April 2017
  6. Christopher Chandler: billionaire behind Legatum think tank has unrivalled access to Brexit MPs, the Times, 14 October 2017
  7. Crawford Falconer, gov.uk, accessed Oct 2017
  8. Faculty biog, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy website, accessed Oct 2017
  9. Brexit and what it means for the Asia Pacific, CIS website, accessed Nov 2017
  10. CNS Global advisers, website, accessed Oct 2017
  11. About us, Split Rock website, accessed Oct 2017
  12. About, Bennett Jones website, accessed Oct 2017
  13. Legatum: the think-tank at intellectual heart of ‘hard’ Brexit, FT, 4 December 2017
  14. Wonks unite, City AM, 13 July 2017
  15. Wonks unite, City AM, 13 July 2017
  16. About, Prosperity UK website, accessed October 2017
  17. Hickman, Brexit Central, accessed Oct 2017
  18. Road to Brexit, CSJ, October 2016
  19. Trade talks guru who urges a hard break with Brussels, The Times, 30 April 2017
  20. Shanker Singham, Linkedin Profile, accessed Oct 2017
  21. [http://transnationalstrategy.com/brexit-practice-group Transnational Strategy Group – Competere – EPPA Unrivalled Brexit expertise in Washington, London and Brussels] TSG website, accessed Oct 2017
  22. Legatum Institute, Gisela Stuart and Sir Oliver Letwin join the Legatum Institute as fellows, 15 January 2018, accessed 25 January 2018
  23. Trade talks guru who urges a hard break with Brussels, the Times, 30 April 2017
  24. Legatum Institute
  25. Legatum goes global, Private Eye, Issue 1454
  26. Legatum: the think-tank at intellectual heart of ‘hard’ Brexit, FT, 4 December 2017
  27. Peter Geoghegan, Legatum: the Brexiteers’ favourite think tank. Who is behind them?, Open Democracy, 26 November 2017
  28. A toast to libertarians everywhere, Simon Clark blog, 21 October 2011