Waheed Alli, Baron Alli

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The Lord Alli
Waheed Alli 2010.jpg
Chancellor of De Montfort University
In office
Vice-ChancellorPhilip Tasker
Dominic Shellard
Preceded byThe Baroness Prashar
Succeeded byThe Baroness Lawrence
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
Assumed office
18 July 1998
Life Peerage
Personal details
Waheed Alli

(1964-11-16) 16 November 1964 (age 54)
Croydon, London, UK
Political partyLabour
ProfessionMedia entrepreneur

Waheed Alli, Baron Alli (born 16 November 1964) is a media entrepreneur and politician. He is the co-creator of the television series Survivor and has held executive positions at several television production companies including the Endemol Shine Group, Carlton Television Productions (now ITV Studios), Planet 24, and Chorion.[1][2]

He is currently the Chief Executive of Silvergate Media, Chairman of Koovs Plc and a director at Olga Productions. He is a member of the House of Lords in the United Kingdom, sitting as a life peer for the Labour Party, and is described as one of only a few openly gay Muslim politicians in the world.[3][4]


In British political terms he is considered Asian, because both of his parents are Indo-Caribbean. His mother, a nurse, is an Indo-Trinidadian from Trinidad and Tobago, and his estranged father, a mechanic, is an Indo-Guyanese from Guyana. His mother was Hindu and his father Muslim; he has two brothers, who are also Muslims.[5] He was named one of the 20 most important Asians in British media in 2005.[6] At the same time, he maintains ties with his Caribbean roots, both with other British-Guyanese politicians such as Valerie Amos and Trevor Phillips, and with President Bharrat Jagdeo.[7]

He is one of a group of highly successful Guyanese people in Britain (Michael White of The Guardian refers to them as the "Guyanese mafia"), which includes Raj Persaud, Herman Ouseley[8] and David Dabydeen, Cynthia Pine, Keith Waithe and Rudolph Dunbar.[9]

Alli grew up in humble surroundings, attended Stanley Technical College in South Norwood and left school at 16 with nine O-levels.[10]

Business career[edit]

Alli started work as a junior researcher for a finance magazine, crediting his first success to Salem Ghayar, who hired and mentored him. After a few years of preparing monthly reports for potential investors, he was headhunted by Save & Prosper, part of Robert Fleming & Co..[11] Eventually he returned to his original employer, and worked his way up in the media business within Robert Maxwell's stable of publications. He then went to the City for a second career in investment banking, through which he became wealthy.[12] In the mid-1980s he met Charlie Parsons, who was to become his business partner as well as his life partner.[13]

Alli's third career, and the first in which he achieved public prominence, was in the television industry. He and Parsons set up 24 Hour Productions, which produced The Word, "the most talked about television programme in Britain".[10] In 1992 they merged with Bob Geldof's Planet Pictures to form Planet 24. Such was its success that it became one of the largest TV production companies in the country, and the main independent supplier to Channel 4.[10] It was responsible for genre-breaking programmes such as Big Breakfast and Survivor. Carlton Television bought Planet 24 in March 1999 for £15 million, with Alli and Parsons prudently retaining the rights to the lucrative Survivor format. Waheed Alli became a Carlton board director before stepping down a year later.[14]

In April 2003 Alli took over as chairman of the media rights company Chorion Ltd,[15] which owns rights to Enid Blyton and Agatha Christie, and has offices beyond the UK in New York, Sydney, and Tokyo.[6] He was chairman of AIM-listed ASOS.com[16] and a director of Olga Television, entertainer Paul O'Grady's production company. He owns part of Shine Limited, a media production company he co-founded in March 2001 with Elisabeth Murdoch, daughter of media-magnate Rupert Murdoch. In August 2011, he stepped down from the chairmanship of Chorion and sold half his stake in ASOS.com to start a new company called Silvergate Media.[citation needed]

He was part of a failed £100m bid backed by private equity firm 3i to buy Virgin Radio from SMG plc in 2005. In March 2007 he was appointed as SMG's non-executive director.[17]

Alli is a founder investor in Koovs, an Indian online retailer looking to replicate the success of Asos in the subcontinent. The company was set up in 2012 and intends to raise £22m with a stock market listing on London's Aim.[18]


Alli joined the Labour Party at the persuasion of his neighbour Emily Thornberry, to whom he remains close.[19] He is also close to Anji Hunter, Director of Government Relations in Tony Blair's first government.[20] Prime Minister Blair used him for years as a means to help him reach out to a younger generation (aka "yoof culture"),[12] and as such he is considered[by whom?] one of "Tony's Cronies".[7] He was made a life peer as Baron Alli, of Norbury in the London Borough of Croydon, on 18 July 1998[21][22] at the age of 34, becoming the youngest and the first openly gay peer in Parliament. He sits on the Labour benches in the House of Lords. The BBC summarised his appointment as "the antithesis of the stereotypical 'establishment' peer – young, Asian and from the world of media and entertainment".[12]

Alli has used his political position to argue for gay rights[23]. He spearheaded the campaign to repeal Section 28.[24] He advocated lowering the age of consent for homosexuals from 18 to 16, equal to heterosexuals; this eventually became law as the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 2000. It was during a heated exchange with conservative opponents, led by Baroness Young, that he informed his fellow peers that he was gay. In April 1999, he said in a speech, "I have never been confused about my sexuality. I have been confused about the way I am treated as a result of it. The only confusion lies in the prejudice shown, some of it tonight [i.e. in the House], and much of it enshrined in the law."[12][25]

In 2006, he participated the International Conference on LGBT Human Rights adopting Declaration of Montreal and in 2009, he spearheaded an effort to repeal clauses in the Civil Partnership Act 2004 which prohibited religious institutions from conducting the ceremonies on their premises.[26][27][28] This campaign culminated in a bipartisan amendment, which became part of the Equality Act 2010.[29][30] He influenced the draft Communications Bill in 2003.[6]

Other activities[edit]

Alli's work has been focused around gay rights, youth and education. He is the former Chancellor of De Montfort University in Leicester. He is also the President of the Croydon Youth Development Trust.[31] He is a patron of Skillset,[32] the Sector Skills Council supporting skills and training within the creative media industries.

In Autumn 2008 he won a Stonewall Award for the category of political figure. In 2002 he became a patron of The Albert Kennedy Trust, stating: "Being a teenager isn't easy and it's particularly difficult for vulnerable and socially excluded members of our community. The Albert Kennedy Trust offers young gay men, lesbians and bisexuals a unique and targeted service. My first task as Patron will be to support plans to extend these services across the UK, to help the increasing number of young people contacting the Trust." He was a keynote speaker at the International Conference on LGBT Human Rights, part of the 2006 World Outgames, which led to the Declaration of Montreal. Alli is a patron of Oxford Pride, the annual Pride event in Oxfordshire, and of Pride London. He is a patron of the Elton John AIDS Foundation.[33]

A portrait of Alli is in the National Portrait Gallery collection,[34] which contains "portraits of the Nation's great men and women".[35]


Coat of arms of Waheed Alli, Baron Alli
Coronet of a British Baron.svg
Alli Escutcheon.png
A Scarlet Ibis proper grasping in the sinister claws a Rose Gules barbed seeded slipped and leaved Or
Azure on a Cross Argent between four Suns issuing from the dexter and sinister chief and from the dexter and sinister base a Cross flory Gules each limb banded Or
On either side a Jaguar Or spotted Azure grasping in the interior forefoot a Sugar Cain Or
Pro multis non pro paucis [36]


  1. ^ "Executive Profile: Waheed Alli". Bloomberg.com. Retrieved 14 February 2018.
  2. ^ "Lunch with the FT: Waheed Alli".
  3. ^ Alderson, Andrew (6 March 2010). "Lord Alli attacks bishops in 'gay marriage' row". Telegraph. Retrieved 25 April 2012. one of the few openly-gay Muslim politicians
  4. ^ Edgecliffe-Johnson, Andrew. "Lunch with the FT: Waheed Alli". FT. Retrieved 28 February 2012. one of the few gay Muslims in British public life.
  5. ^ Vasagar, Jeevan; Kelso, Paul; James-Gregory, Sally; Dodd, Vikram (17 June 2002). "Profiles of 10 leading British Muslims". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 26 April 2012.
  6. ^ a b c Most Powerful Asians in British Media: Lord Waheed Alli. Asians in Media
  7. ^ a b John Muir, "Caribbean Peers" Archived 27 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine, Caribbean Voice, October 2001.
  8. ^ Michael White, "Balls gets his retaliation in first as annual GCSE row begins", The Guardian, 27 August 2009.
  9. ^ Guyanese Achievers UK (2007) by Dindayal Vidur.
  10. ^ a b c Knitting Circle. Archived 7 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ Interviewed by Shahid. The Asian Outlook. No date; approximately 2001.
  12. ^ a b c d "Profile: Lord Waheed Alli". BBC News Online. 29 November 2000. Retrieved 24 May 2009.
  13. ^ "The Party Boys". The Independent. Saturday, 6 June 2015. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  14. ^ Vasagar, Jeevan; Kelso, Paul; James-Gregory, Sally; Dodd, Vikram (17 June 2002). "Profiles of 10 leading British Muslims". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 24 May 2009.
  15. ^ "Hands off Noddy!". The Daily Telegraph. London. 14 December 2003.
  16. ^ "Overseas sales boost Asos profits". bbc.co.uk. 29 June 2009. Retrieved 29 June 2009.
  17. ^ Holmwood, Leigh (5 March 2007). "SMG makes board appointments". guardian.co.uk. London. Retrieved 24 May 2009.
  18. ^ Duncan Robinson (12 November 2013). "Ex-Asos boss to list Indian venture on Aim". Financial Times.
  19. ^ Edemariam, Aida (19 May 2009). "Right, so just what do you do all day?". The Guardian.
  20. ^ Ahmed, Kamal (2 June 2002). "Inside Labour's young boy (and girl) network". The Observer.
  21. ^ "No. 55203". The London Gazette. 22 July 1998. p. 7983.
  22. ^ Minutes and Order Paper – Minutes of Proceedings – The House of Lords Parliament (19 July 1998). Retrieved on 15 March 2013.
  23. ^ "Kooth | Home". kooth.com. Retrieved 23 April 2018.
  24. ^ Highleyman, Liz (16 February 2006). "What was Clause 28?". Gmax. Archived from the original on 14 August 2006. Retrieved 24 June 2017.
  25. ^ Waheed Alli, Baron Alli (13 April 1999). "HL Deb 13 April 1999 vol 599 c737". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). United Kingdom: House of Lords. col. 737.
  26. ^ "Lord Alli's amendment". Church of England.[dead link]
  27. ^ Alderson, Andrew (6 March 2010). "Lord Alli attacks bishops in 'gay marriage' row". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 25 April 2012. one of the few openly-gay Muslim politicians
  28. ^ "Church gay ceremonies ban lifted". BBC News Online. 3 March 2010.
  29. ^ Taylor, Jerome (3 March 2010). "Gay weddings to be allowed in church". The Independent.
  30. ^ "Peer drops fight over same-sex ceremonies in churches". BBC News Online. 15 December 2011.
  31. ^ Croydon Youth Development Trust Archived 20 June 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  32. ^ Skillset Board of Patrons Archived 29 November 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  33. ^ Elton John AIDS Foundation patrons
  34. ^ "Waheed Alli, Baron Alli (1964-), Television producer and politician", National Portrait Gallery.
  35. ^ "National Portrait Gallery – Introduction to the Primary Collection". Retrieved 18 June 2013. The collections fulfil two enduring functions: to display portraits of the Nation's great men and women [and] to act as a national focus for the study and understanding of portraits and portraiture.
  36. ^ http://www.cracroftspeerage.co.uk/online/content/lp1958%20a.htm

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
Baroness Usha Prashar
Chancellor of De Montfort University
Succeeded by
Baroness Doreen Lawrence