|The Right Honourable
The Lord Ashcroft
|Born||Michael Anthony Ashcroft
4 March 1946
Chichester, West Sussex, England
|Residence||London, Maidenhead, Belize|
Belonger of the Turks & Caicos Islands
Royal Grammar School, High Wycombe
|Alma mater||Anglia Ruskin University|
|Occupation||Businessman, Philanthropist, Politician|
|Known for||Hawley Goodall
British Car Auctions
|Net worth||£1.1 billion|
|Spouse(s)||Susan Anstey (m. 1986)|
Michael Anthony Ashcroft, Baron Ashcroft, KCMG PC (born 4 March 1946), is an international businessman, philanthropist and politician. He holds dual British and Belizean nationality, and is a Belonger of the Turks & Caicos Islands. Ennobled as a life peer in 2000, he sits in the House of Lords on the Conservative benches. In the Sunday Times Rich List 2009 ranking of the wealthiest people in the UK he was placed 37th with an estimated fortune of £1.1 billion. On 1 March 2010, after 10 years of holding his tax status as private, he revealed that he did not pay tax on his overseas earnings in the UK. He is a former Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party.
- 1 Biography
- 2 Politics
- 3 Charity and philanthropy
- 4 Victoria Crosses
- 5 Controversy
- 6 Honours
- 7 Books
- 8 Arms
- 9 Notes
- 10 External links
He was educated at Norwich School, Royal Grammar School, High Wycombe, and Mid-Essex Technical College (now Anglia Ruskin University), where he obtained a Higher National Diploma in Business studies.
After a period in Belize after completing his education, Ashcroft returned to hitch hike around Europe, and then for a short period of time became the manager of a rock and roll band. In 1967, Ashcroft joined Rothmans as a management trainee.
He left in 1969, joining Pritchard Group Services, after some months on the dole. Pritchard Group was a cleaning and business services company and Ashcroft worked his way up quickly to become an assistant in the company's head office accounting department, part of a large acquisitions team.
In 1972 at age 26, he started his own business, Michael A. Ashcroft Associates. His first acquisition was Uni-Kleen – a loss-making cleaning company with one thousand employees, which he purchased for just £1 in 1974. With a £15,000 bank loan he worked to turn the company around, selling it just three years later for £1.3 million.
On exiting Uni-Kleen in 1977, his next purchase was Hawley Goodall, another poorly-performing company, this time in camping equipment manufacture. Ashcroft used Hawley to make a series of acquisitions, transforming Hawley into a business services group, ranging from janitorial services for hospitals and offices, to car auction services, and later with a focus on the security services industry. Through the sale of the car auctions division to the fast-expanding British Car Auctions, he formed a lifelong friendship with David Wickins, whom he would later help take a majority stake in Lotus Cars, as well as finance other joint-ventures. By 1981, Hawley had made its first acquisitions in the United States, and its total revenues had grown to $27 million.
By early 1983, Hawley had built up a 20% stake in pharmaceutical packaging manufacturer Cope Allman. Ashcroft offered to increase his stake to 29.9%, just below the 30% level at which a formal bid for the entire company must be launched. Ashcroft and Cope Allman fought bitterly over the purchase share price and current holdings, with Cope Allman reporting Ashcroft and Wickins to the Takeover panel, after discovering that BCA had built up a 13.5% in the company. But the takeover panel found that the Ashcroft and Wickins were operating independently, so Hawley was able to increase its holding to 29.9%. At this point the combined holdings of Hawley/BCA in Cope Allman amounted to 43.5% per cent of Cope Allman, giving them the power to introduce sweeping changes without launching a full bid. Cope Allman was eventually sold to an MBO backed by Hawley and financed by Bain Capital, and then sold to Bowater in 1992 in a complex swap of assets with ADT/Hawley.
In 1985 Ashcroft and Wickins bought car sales dealership Henlys Group via a Canadian-registered company, Mipec. Controlled by Ashcroft's Hawley Goodall, Henlys was merged with the already owned funeral hearse maker Coleman Milne to form a Motoring Division. In 1989, Hawley Goodall sold its Motoring Division consisting of Henlys and Coleman Milne to the Plaxton Group, the bus and coach manufacturer based in Scarborough, North Yorkshire.
In 1986, Hawley bought out Ashcroft's former employer, Pritchard Services, leaping to the second place in the U.S. services industry. At this time, Hawley had revenues of more than $1.3 billion.
1987 was a key year for Hawley. In the early part of the year, it bought Crime Control Inc. based in Indianapolis, for $50 million, placing the company in fourth place in the U.S. security market. Later in the year it bought ADT Security Services, the largest electronic security company in the United States. This purchase transformed Hawley into the leading security services business in the United States, and resulted in the majority of its revenues coming from the North American market. As a result of the acquisition, Bermuda-registered Hawley changed its name to ADT Inc. and decided to refocus its business around security services. At the end of 1987, the company sold its North American-based facility services business to Denmark's ISS A/S.
In 1987, Ashcroft bought out the existing shareholders of Wickins BCA via Hawley Goodall. Based at Blackbushe Airport to allow Wickins access to his treasured aviation division, which flew both Jet Ranger helicopters and Beechcraft King Air turbo prop aircraft, Ashcroft who has a disliking for such flipant expenditure immediately sold off the aircraft. Wickins joined the board of Hawley Goodall, remaining there until the Tyco takeover, but retired from BCA in 1990. In 1995 to allow for the Tyco transaction, the group decided to divest itself of BCA. The residual North American arm was sold to trade buyers, while the European arm was sold to a consortia of some 40 private investors, including Ashcroft via his Belieze-based investment company. In September 2006, BCA was bought by the UK-based investment banking arm of private bank Samuel Montagu & Co., a division of HSBC, personally netting Ashcroft over £200 million.
Ashcroft disposed of large amounts of the Tyco stock which he had acquired as a result of the sale of ADT, explaining that he needed the capital to diversify into other things and that he never retained a substantial stake in any enterprise which he did not control. Ashcroft nevertheless continued as a non-executive director of Tyco, a role he still held in 2002 when Tyco CEO, Dennis Kozlowski, was arrested in New York in connection with personal tax offences. Unease had already been expressed at Tyco at some of Kozlowski's corporate decisions and Ashcroft was amongst the directors who appointed lawyer David Boies to investigate irregularities in the company. In time, the exposure of management deficiencies led to Ashcroft demanding that the whole of the board of directors of Tyco should resign, to be replaced by new management.
Belize and cross holdings
Ashcroft has close business and other connections with the Commonwealth country of Belize, and served as the country's ambassador to the United Nations between 1998 and 2000. In his 2005 biography, he admitted that it is a country where his interests have been "exempt from certain taxes for 30 years." In 2009, the Prime Minister of Belize Dean Barrow told its parliament:
Ashcroft is an extremely powerful man. His net worth may well be equal to Belize's entire GDP. He is nobody to cross.
Barrow also warned David Cameron that relations with Britain would be damaged if Ashcroft were given a senior position in government. In 1981, Belize had gained independence from the UK. Seeing the opportunity to build an off-shore operations base and control the country's financial service, in 1984 Ashcroft formed Belize Holdings (BHI), which became the vehicle for a parallel acquisition spree during the 1980s, beyond the scope of Hawley.
By the late 1980s, BHI had become one of the largest holding companies in Belize, with direct interests in or holdings via main operating company Stargate Ltd, ranging from telecommunications, property, the Belize shipping register, and citrus fruits.
In 1987, BHI led the formation of Belize Bank Holdings (BBH), which took control of Belize Bank from the Royal Bank of Canada. Belize Bank has become the country's largest financial institution, controlling some 50 percent of the market. BBH developed local and international interests in facilities services, finance and telecommunications. Belize Bank itself formerly held a majority stake in Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL), until it was nationalised by the Government of Belize.
In 2005, under pressure from the Belize Government to bring transparency to its Belize based financial interests, BBH restructured, demerging its interests in England and Ireland into a separate company, Carlisle Group Ltd. BBH then renamed itself BCB Holdings.
Other business activity
Having attempted a takeover Corporate Services Group in 1999, in June 2006 he increased his stake to 28.5%, prompting speculation that he might make an offer for the remaining shares in the company. In May 2008 the merger of Carlisle Group and Corporate Services Group to form Impellam Group was announced. Listed on the Alternative Investment Market, the combined group places in excess of 40,000 people into work each week.
In September 2007, Ashcroft agreed the sale of AIM listed cleaning services supplier OneSource. Based mainly in the USA, it was the old North American cleaning business of ISS that Ashcroft had sold to them when refocusing Hawley in 1987. Bought in 1997 for $1, he agreed the sale of the company at a value of £179m.
As of March 2006 he became the major shareholder in English professional football club Watford, owning up to 42% of the club's shares. In September 2006, he accepted a bid for British Car Auctions (BCA) worth £450m, netting him a personal gain of £200m.
In 2011, he became the main backer, along with Stephan Shakespeare (CEO and co-Founder of YouGov) of Flooved, an Ed Tech Startup.
- Lady M – built Netherlands
- Atlantic Goose – built originally for Sir Donald Gosling as Brave Goose in 1987 by Tough Brothers of Teddington, on the River Thames. On 30 January 1987, Brave Goose became wedged under the central arch of the Richmond Bridge, London, eventually being freed at low tide the next day.
In the UK, he was a major donor to and Treasurer of the Conservative Party from 1998 to 2001, under William Hague. His tenure was marked by a number of controversies: he was seen to pay little UK income tax because of his domicile in Belize; and he was at the centre of a debate about openness and accountability of political funding. Unsubstantiated speculation about his business affairs was concluded when he pursued a libel action against The Times. This was settled on 9 December 1999, when The Times issued a front-page statement saying "The Times is pleased to confirm that it has no evidence that Mr Ashcroft or any of his companies have ever been suspected of money-laundering or drug-related crimes... Litigation between the parties has been settled to mutual satisfaction, with each side bearing its own costs."  
In 2004 he clashed with Conservative leader Michael Howard when he offered a £2m donation on the condition that it should go to his specified candidates rather than into general Conservative Central Office funds. Ashcroft stated in 2005: "I much prefer to be involved, to make sure that my investment is wisely placed."
During the "Cash for Peerages" controversy, on 31 March 2006 Ashcroft was named by the Conservative Party as having loaned it £3.6m.
On 12 October 2007 he was accused by Labour MPs of being allowed to fund heavily local Conservative organisations in marginal seats of his choosing. Lord Ashcroft has insisted such funding is legitimate.
Significant donations made to the Conservative Party by Bearwood Corporate Services, a company controlled by Ashcroft, have also come under scrutiny. The trading status of the company, and thus the validity of donations totalling £5.1m between 2003 and 2008, is unclear and became the subject of an investigation by the Electoral Commission begun in October 2008. Both Labour MPs and the Prime Minister had called for the process to be concluded in time for the next general election, due by mid-2010. Liberal Democrat Lord Oakeshott stated: "Democracy is in danger if Lord Ashcroft has been pouring millions into Conservative campaigns through an offshore pipeline from a Caribbean tax haven." However, in March 2010 sources from the Electoral Commission described the donations as being "legal and permissible".
On 1 March 2010 Ashcroft admitted that he was not domiciled in the UK for tax purposes. On 4 March 2010 the House of Commons Public Administration Select committee decided to hold a "special one-off inquiry" into Lord Ashcroft’s peerage and his tax affairs. The committee’s three Conservative MPs are said to have refused to take part in the inquiry.
In September 2010, Ashcroft announced he would be stepping down as Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party. His resignation came as he published Minority Verdict, his critical analysis of why the Conservative Party failed to gain an overall majority in the general election; leading to the Conservatives forming the current Coalition government with the Liberal Democrats. He was replaced by the Conservative MP, former government minister and the current Treasury Select Committee member, Michael Fallon.
In 2012, the Telegraph credited Ashcroft, owner of both the ConservativeHome and PoliticsHome website with "stopping the Coalition working" by moving policy on Europe, welfare, education, taxation to the Right. Prior to the 2010 election, Cameron gave Ashcroft a large office and a significant role in the election campaign but he received no reward in the form of ministerial job. Although claiming not to exercise editorial control, Ashcroft, a "brutal critic of the Coalition from the start" has established “megaphone presence” in the online media and the LibDems are described as blocking economic and welfare system reforms. The parties have separate and contradictory agendas and -as exemplified by Michael Gove's education reforms intended for Tory ears only -don't even consult each other. Cameron's philosophy of liberal conservatism has been destroyed by "coordinated attacks on the Coalition." Although voters may have liked Coalition government, "the two parties are no longer trying to pretend that they are governing together" and Cameron seems unwilling to celebrate midterm successes. "Ashcroft, who has been against it all along, looks like getting his way."
Ashcroft allegedly gave the People's United Party in Belize $1m when it was in opposition. During its period in power, it introduced laws that are claimed by opponents and media commentators to be financially advantageous to Ashcroft.
Lord Ashcroft has become a significant figure in Australian politics having been identified as the single largest individual donor to any Australian political party during the Financial Year 2004/2005. The Australian Electoral Commission reported in February 2006 that Ashcroft (who gave his address as "House of Lords, Westminster, London") had donated $1,000,000 to the Liberal Party in September 2004 just before the 2004 Federal election. It was the biggest single disclosed private donation in Australian political history. He also donated $250,000 to the Liberal Party on 28 July 2010.
Charity and philanthropy
Ashcroft claims to have given tens of millions of pounds to good causes over the years. In May 2013, he pledged to donate more than half of his money to good causes, and became a signatory of The Giving Pledge.
Lord Ashcroft is the Founder and Chairman of Crimestoppers.
Ashcroft has been Chancellor of Anglia Ruskin University since November 2001. He donated £5 million in 1999 for the university's business school at Chelmsford, now called Lord Ashcroft International Business School, and another £5million gift in 2009 to create a new business school in Cambridge.
Ashcroft is a whale spotter, through which interest he has financially supported various environmental groups and campaigns. He financially supported the Environmental Investigation Agency, who persuaded him to back a television campaign in six Caribbean countries, aimed at coaxing them to withdraw their support for whaling. The countries had received $16 million (£8 million) a year in fisheries aid from Japan. The campaign coincided with the 2006 International Whaling Commission conference in St Kitts.
Ashcroft has also supported military causes; in September 2011 he hosted a reception at the House of Lords for the launch of the Felix Fund, the charity for bomb disposal experts and their families.
Ashcroft pledged to donate all of the author's royalties from his book 'Special Forces Heroes' to the Help for Heroes charity, and from his book, George Cross Heroes to the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association.
Ashcroft collects Victoria Crosses. His collection is by far the largest in the world and spans the three services—the Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force (RAF). The collection also spans 128 years from acts of bravery at the start of the Crimean War in 1854 to an act of courage during the Falklands War in 1982. He wrote Victoria Cross Heroes, to mark the 150th anniversary of the Victoria Cross.
Following the theft of a number of Victoria Crosses awarded to New Zealand servicemen from the Army Museum at Waiouru in late 2007, Ashcroft pledged NZ$200,000 for their return. Those stolen included the VC & Bar of Charles Upham. The medals were recovered three months later and at a presentation in Wellington on 15 April 2008 he pledged a further NZ$200,000 for information leading to the conviction of those responsible for the thefts.
In July 2008, Ashcroft announced a donation of £5 million for a permanent gallery at the Imperial War Museum, where the 50 Victoria Crosses held by the museum will be put on display alongside his own collection of 162 VCs.
Lord Ashcroft courted controversy when Chairman of the Conservative Party Eric Pickles MP declared on BBC Radio 4 that Ashcroft would be willing to appear on the station's flagship Today programme to clarify his unclear tax status. However, when invited, Lord Ashcroft quickly declined, according to John Humphrys. Ashcroft delayed comment on whether he currently pays tax on his global income in the United Kingdom, despite being a prominent and influential member of the legislature and major donor to the Conservative Party but eventually announced his non-domiciled status.
U.S. DEA leak fiasco
In 1999, Ashcroft was first nominated by Conservative Party leader and friend William Hague for the Lords. During their investigation, the House of Lords Appointments Commission was fed certain information via the media, which originated from Jonathan Randel, an intelligence research specialist for the United States Drug Enforcement Administration.
Randel leaked Ashcroft's name as being in the DEA's files, although it later emerged that Ashcroft was one of 5 million people they routinely had files on. Randel claimed that the DEA was ignoring Ashcroft in its investigation of money laundering, allegations which The Times newspaper later printed on its front page. However, later investigation by various British media sources from information released under the US Freedom of Information Act showed that at no point did the DEA personally investigate Ashcroft.
After his second successful nomination to the Lords and his ascent to the house, Ashcroft sued The Times in the High Court. The two parties eventually reached an out of court agreement which resulted in Rupert Murdoch agreeing to The Times printing a full front page retraction of its allegations. Ashcroft later recounted his own side of the story in his book, Dirty Politics, Dirty Times.
A U.S. attorney later investigated Randel for his leak and indicted him on 18 counts. Randel pled guilty to one of these – a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 641, and on 9 January 2003, Randel was sentenced to a year in a federal prison, followed by three years probation.
In 2003, Ashcroft was criticised by the High Court judge, Mr Justice Peter Smith in Rock (Nominees) Ltd v RCO (Holdings) Plc. Smith condemned Ashcroft's tactics in relation to the takeover of cleaning company RCO by the Danish firm ISS. Smith said,
Euphemistically this practice—which I understand is a not unheard of practice in the City—is described as "greenmail". The proper word to my mind is blackmail. It is the kind of thing which brings the City into disrepute ... Where matters are dealt with in speculation and profits are made, which are then gathered offshore, when there is no merit and no exposure to the kind of risks associated with companies, that to my mind is not legitimate.—Justice Peter Smith
Smith added that Ashcroft "was not content with a small £250,000 profit earned in a matter of weeks. He now seeks to extract millions." Ashcroft responded by telling journalists that "being accused of blackmail by a man who states that speculation has no part to play in the City is rather like finding that you are sharing a railway carriage with a drunk. It's best not to take too much notice."
On 5 March 2010, Lord Ashcroft has been accused of avoiding VAT on opinion polls he commissioned for the Conservatives in 2005. The polls were carried out by YouGov and Populus, and are believed to have cost in the region of £250,000.
The Guardian said that sources claimed the bills were paid by a company owned by Lord Ashcroft in Belize, meaning that he did not pay VAT. The newspaper estimated that the total VAT bill could have totalled more than £40,000.
On 31 March 2000, Ashcroft was appointed as a life peer, and the title Baron Ashcroft, of Chichester in the County of West Sussex was gazetted on 20 October 2000. His appointment to the House of Lords was controversial at the time, particularly because of his business and political interests in Belize; the body responsible for scrutiny of political honours had refused his becoming a member of the Lords one year earlier. He was nominated by Conservative party leader William Hague on the condition that he became a UK resident although at the beginning of 2010 he announced his "non-domiciled" tax status. Ashcroft had announced that he intended to take the title "Baron Ashcroft of Belize", a suggestion that infuriated his political opponents. He later claimed this had been a joke, and his title was created as simply "Baron Ashcroft".
In the 2000 Queen's Birthday Honours, on the advice of the Belizean government, he was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG) "for public service to the community and country" of Belize.
- Dirty politics Dirty times: My fight with Wapping and New Labour, MAA Publishing, 2005
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- Special Forces Heroes: Extraordinary True Stories of Daring and Valour, Headline Review, 2009
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- Heroes of the Skies, Headline Review, 2012
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- Launch of £1m appeal for our bomb disposal heroes
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- Michael Ashcroft's personal website
- Conservative Home, owner
- Lord Ashcroft Foundation
- Profile at Parliament of the United Kingdom
- Contributions in Parliament at Hansard 1803–2005
- Current session contributions in Parliament at Hansard
- Voting record at PublicWhip.org
- Record in Parliament at TheyWorkForYou.com
- Profile at Westminster Parliamentary Record
- Profile at BBC News Democracy Live
- Articles authored at Journalisted
- Register of Lords' interests
- Works by or about Michael A. Ashcroft in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
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- Crimestoppers, founder
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- Victoria Cross Heroes
- Special Forces Heroes
- George Cross Heroes