Robin Birley (businessman)
Robin Marcus 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 has a sister, India Jane Birley, from whom he is estranged.
Birley is involved 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.
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 to 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.". 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."
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". 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. 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.
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. For this reason he and his sister, India Jane, are estranged.
Since his dismissal, Birley has concentrated on his company Envirotrade, which sells Plan Vivo  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.
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. 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".
In June 2012, Birley opened his Mayfair establishment 5 Hertford Street after much delay and thwarted attempts. Birley once owned Harry's Bar, The Ivy and Le Caprice, among others, before selling them to restaurateur Richard Caring in about 2005 for £100million.
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 Goldsmith, Jemima Khan and Ben Goldsmith.
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.
- Monbiot, George (31 August 2004). "George Monbiot: Adventure playground". The Guardian (London).
- Times Online
- Tatler http://www.tatler.com/the-tatler-list/b/robin-birley
- "Mark Birley dies, but the feud lives on", The Independent, 26 August 2007
- Envirotrade, UK.
- "Plan Vivo". Plan Vivo. Retrieved 26 January 2012.
- Olden, Mark and Gillard, Michael Gillard (11 April 2010). "Carbon credit documentary should not have been shown, BBC admits". The Observer (London). Retrieved 29 May 2011.
- Find Articles
- "Toyboy Ferry gets serious with Sienna", Daily Mail, 29 June 2007
- Democracy Movement's official website
- Remember-Chile - Pinochet's apologists in Britain
- ZoomInfo - Robin Birley
- Annabel's: A tale of love, snobbery, revenge... and some jolly good cocktails, by Liz Hoggard, The Independent, 7 November 2006
- Davis bid is boosted by high-flyer
- Africa, the adventure playground for British upper class, by George Monbiot
- Lady Annabel, the ghost of Jimmy Goldsmith and two society clans, 17 October 2006
- The Cruel Truth About Surly Birley, by Natalie Clark, Daily Mail, 8 November 2006
- The nightclub heir and the storm over his sister's love-child