Michael Levy, Baron Levy
The Lord Levy
|Born||11 July 1944|
Michael Abraham Levy, Baron Levy, (born 11 July 1944) was a practising Chartered Accountant and Chairman & CEO of a large independent group of music companies, and is a Labour Peer.
He is the President of Volunteering Matters, Jewish Care, Jewish Free School (JFS) and Jewish Lads' and Girls' Brigade (JLGB).
Levy was the chief fundraiser for the UK Labour Party. A long-standing friend of former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, Lord Levy spent nine years as Tony Blair's special envoy to the Middle East, being replaced by Gordon Brown's appointee, Lord Williams of Baglan, from September 2007.
Levy qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1966 (ACA then FCA) and set up a very successful professional accountancy practice.
The practice attracted a great number of clients in the music and entertainment industry and Levy became a specialist in international copyright and licence.
Amongst the clients were the Foundations, Vanity Fair, Roger Greenaway, Barry Mason and many other successful producers and artists.
Levy founded Magnet Records with Peter Shelley in 1973. This became one of the most successful independent labels of its day and at one stage had 10% of the British singles market with four singles in the top ten.
Guitarist Chris Rea said of Levy, "He is extremely tough, one of the hardest bastards I have ever met, but I would leave my children with him rather than anyone else." The music producer Pete Waterman described him as "the greatest salesman I have ever met. He would be able to sell sand to the Arabs."
After Magnet was sold, Levy set up M&G Records with backing from Polygram. M&G Records was so named as it was the initials of Michael and his wife Gilda, and featured acts such as Zoe who had a top five hit with "Sunshine on a Rainy Day" and Pele who had success with "Fair blows the wind for France". Polygram were then bought out and the company was eventually sold to Bertelsmann (BMG) in 1997.
Aptitude for fundraising
Levy was involved in fundraising from his early life and from the late 1960s for many causes including Jewish and Israeli causes. For this he showed a special adeptness, raising, between 1988–1994, £60m for Jewish Care, an amalgam of several Jewish charitable organisations, of which he is now President. Simon Morris, Chief Executive of Jewish Care, said of Levy that, when it comes to fundraising, "there's no one better in the country." Levy has been described as the number one fundraiser in the country.
Levy first met Tony Blair at a dinner party in 1994, hosted by Israeli diplomat Gideon Meir, the two having a common friend in Eldred Tabachnik, a senior barrister (now a QC and a former president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews) at 11 King's Bench Walk, the chambers founded by Derry Irvine where Blair had trained in the early 1980s. They soon became close friends and tennis partners. Levy ran the Labour Leader's Office Fund to finance Blair's campaign before the 1997 general election and received substantial contributions from such figures as Alex Bernstein and Robert Gavron, both of whom were ennobled by Blair after he came to power. Levy himself was created a life peer on 23 September 1997 as Baron Levy, of Mill Hill in the London Borough of Barnet. Since making his maiden speech on 3 December 1997, Levy has not spoken in a debate at the House of Lords.
He has been described by The Jerusalem Post as "undoubtedly the notional leader of British Jewry". He was a founding member of the Jewish Leadership Council, the leadership of UK Jewish community. Levy has close ties with Israeli political leaders. His son, Daniel Levy, was active in Israeli political life, and has served as an assistant to the former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and to Knesset member Yossi Beilin. His son Daniel is now based in the UK and is now President of the US Middle East Project and before that was Head of the Middle East Department of the European Council of Foreign Relations. Levy has praised Blair for his "solid and committed support of the State of Israel" and "his commitment to the peace process". Levy was associated with the Labour Friends of Israel.
Known as "Lord Cashpoint" to some in the media and politics, he was the leading fundraiser for the Labour Party from 1994 to 2007 (having raised over £100m for the Labour Party. In 2007 he voluntarily decided to step down at the same time as former Prime Minister Tony Blair.
In 2000, Levy was criticised when it was revealed that he had paid only £5,000 tax during the financial year 1998–1999 – however it was subsequently shown even in that year the tax paid was £30,000. In an interview at the time, repeated on BBC2's Newsnight on 16 March 2006, Levy stated that "Over the years I have paid many millions of tax and, if you average it, each year it comes to many hundreds of thousands of pounds. In that particular year, I was giving my time to the Labour Party and the voluntary sector, and I just lived off capital."
From 1998 until 2007, he acted as Prime Minister Blair's personal envoy to the Middle East.
Many leaders in the region including Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have praised Levy for always offering constructive suggestions. Mr Blair has said Lord Levy carried out "a perfectly excellent job as my envoy under very difficult circumstances".
Cash for honours
Levy was arrested and questioned in connection with the "Cash for Honours" inquiry by the Metropolitan Police on 12 July 2006 (whereby it was suggested that money was paid to political parties for Honours in particular peerages). No charges were made against Levy and the police removed all details from their files.
He is a Member of the World Board of Directors, The International Peace Institute, IPI (2014- ). He is a Member of the Advisory Council, Step Up to Serve Campaign (2013- ). He is the Chair of the Policy Network Foundation, a policy think tank. He also holds and has held a number of other positions in the voluntary sector.
In 2008 Levy became Chairman of International Standard Asset Management until 2011. Now Principal of Global Consultancy Services acting as a Consultant to a number of companies.
He and his wife Gilda have a son, Daniel, and a daughter, Juliet.
Levy's home in Totteridge, North London, was burgled in 2003. He and his wife Gilda were restrained with handcuffs and had bleach poured over them. Levy was hit on the head with a shovel and had his wrist broken; the attackers fled with £80,000 of cash and jewellery.
Lord Levy received an Honorary Doctorate from Middlesex University in 1999, and the Israel Policy Forum (USA) Special Recognition Award in 2003. In 1994 he was a Recipient of the B'nai B'rith First Lodge Award and in 1998 a Recipient of the Friends of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Scopus Award. He has received the Jewish Chronicle 175th Anniversary Award for outstanding, unique and long term contributions to British Community life.
Lord Levy's autobiography, A Question of Honour, was published in 2008.
- "UK appoints new Middle East envoy". BBC News. 3 August 2007.
- Euan Ferguson (19 March 2006). "There was once a jolly bagman". London: The Observer. Retrieved 19 January 2011.
- Adam Sweeting "Alvin Stardust obituary", The Guardian, 23 October 2014
- Stuart Wavell (19 March 2006). "Lord Cashpoint's touch of money magic". London: Sunday Times.
- "No. 54904". The London Gazette. 29 September 1997. p. 10969.
- Jewish Care, Fundraising Dinner 2006
- Pierce, Andrew (18 November 1997). "Blair's chance to raise cash for Pounds 1m refund". The Times. Missing or empty
- "Blair tycoon paid just £5,000 tax". Sunday Times. 25 June 2000.
- "Profile: Lord Levy". BBC. 12 July 2006.
- "Top Labour fundraiser Levy bailed". BBC News. 12 July 2006. Retrieved 19 January 2011.
- "Lord Levy". House of Lords. Archived from the original on 27 December 2010. Retrieved 23 January 2011.
- "MP probes award to Levy ex-aide". BBC. 19 July 2006.
- Martin Bell (24 May 2008). "Blinded by the light". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 23 January 2011.
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