Robin Birley (businessman)

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Robin Birley (born 19 February 1958) is an English businessman and political activist. He is the son of Lady Annabel Goldsmith and nightclub owner Mark Birley. He had a brother, Rupert (disappeared and presumed deceased) and a sister, India Jane Birley, from whom he is estranged.

Career[edit]

Birley has long been a figure in United Kingdom business, public relations and politics. Until 2004 he was chairman of the Democracy Movement, a crossparty pressure group once financed by Paul Sykes that succeeded the efforts of the now defunct Referendum Party. The Democracy Movement actively campaigns against a European Union constitution and a single European currency.[1]

A staunchly conservative Eurosceptic, Birley stood as a candidate for the Referendum Party, founded by his stepfather Sir James Goldsmith with the aim of creating a referendum on UK membership in the European Union.

In 1998, Birley began his work with Chilean Supporters Abroad. During a break in the trial of Chile's former president Augusto Pinochet, Birley welcomed him to England and helped finance a sumptuous residence for him in Wentworth, Surrey as well as a pro-Pinochet pamphlet. Birley stated: "It's also an abuse of hospitality to ambush an old man when he has come to this country year after year. He has done an immense amount for Chile. No one is supporting him and I have sympathy for the underdog.".[2] Pinochet was the leader of a military junta which overthrew the democratically elected government of Chile in 1973.

In the early 1990s, Birley was president of the Mozambique Institute, which supported Renamo, a conservative political party sponsored by the white minority government in Rhodesia and later by the apartheid regime in South Africa. Birley once told George Monbiot, that he believed he "had not just a right but a duty to give help to Renamo."[3]

In 2005, Birley financed David Davis' bid to become the leader of the United Kingdom's Conservative Party. Birley described Davis as "the most conservative of the candidates".[4] Although the position ultimately went to David Cameron, Birley's half-brother Zac Goldsmith was given a high-profile role as the party leader's advisor on environmental issues.

When his father needed to use a wheelchair full-time, Birley and his sister took over the operation of his nightclub empire.[5] Birley is best known for revamping Annabel's, the London night club founded by his father and named for his mother. He also runs a members' club at 5 Hertford Street, Mayfair.[6]

However in late 2006, Birley was dismissed by his father and his sister on the grounds of alleged misconduct for having engaged a private investigator to do a background check on the boyfriend of his 45 year old sister India Jane. Birley paid £200,000 for what turned out to be false information.[7] For this reason he and his sister, India Jane, are estranged.

In June 2012 Robin Birley opened his Mayfair establishment, 5 Hertford Street.

Envirotrade[edit]

Since his dismissal, Birley has concentrated on his company Envirotrade,[8] which sells Plan Vivo [9] community carbon credits. These carbon credits allow companies to voluntarily offset their carbon emissions. Envirotrade has set up community forestry projects in Mozambique and Bhutan to produce carbon credits through reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) and agroforestry. The Sofala community carbon project remains the only project in the world to have been awarded gold in all three categories of the Climate Community and Biodiversity standard.[10]

In April 2010, the BBC admitted that a documentary about Birley titled Taking The Credit, produced by Rockhopper TV, should not have been shown because of conflicts of interest.[11] The BBC trust stated in its final report in 2011 that "there was no suggestion that the ACLT, Envirotrade or any personnel connected to the organisations had acted improperly".[12]

In June 2012 Robin Birley, opened his Mayfair establishment 5 Hertford Street after much delay and thwarted attempts. Birley, who once owned Harry's Bar, The Ivy, Le Caprice, among others, before selling the lot to restaurateur Richard Caring five years ago for £100million. It opened up in Shepherd Market and the bordeaux-coloured 23,000 sqft building is the spot which former nightclub Tiddy Dols used to occupy [13]

Private life[edit]

Birley grew up in London with his siblings, Rupert and India Jane. He was educated at Eton College. His parents were divorced after his mother had two children with his father's friend Sir James Goldsmith. His mother eventually married Goldsmith and continued their polyamorous relationship. Birley has three half-siblings through his mother's second marriage, Zac, Jemima, and Ben Goldsmith.[7]

During his adolescence, Birley was mauled by a tiger at Howletts Zoo, the private zoo of family friend John Aspinall. The bones on one side of his face were crushed. He has endured years of cosmetic surgery but the accident left him severely disfigured.[7]

In 1986, his brother Rupert drowned in mysterious circumstances whilst working in Togo, West Africa, but his body was never recovered.[14]

Robin Birley has a daughter, Maud, by a former girlfriend. He married Lucy Helmore, the ex-wife of Bryan Ferry, in October 2006.[15]

References[edit]

External links[edit]