Wheeler in 2009
|Born||30 January 1935|
|Died||23 July 2020 (aged 85)|
|Occupation||Financier, political activist, barrister|
(m. 1963; died 2016)
|Children||3, including Jacquetta|
John Stuart Wheeler (30 January 1935 – 23 July 2020) was a British financier, gambler and political activist. He made his fortune as the founder of the spread betting firm IG Index in 1974, but was best known for his political activism, being a major donor to the Conservative Party and treasurer of the UK Independence Party from 2011 to 2014.
Early life and career
Wheeler was adopted just before his second birthday by an American, Alexander Wheeler, a former Army officer and heir to a banking fortune, and his young wife Betty, daughter of a baronet, Sir John Gibbons. The couple also adopted a little girl, Susan, on the same day.
Wheeler spent his early years growing up on the Leighon Estate in Manaton, Devon. He was educated at Eton College. He did his National Service with the Welsh Guards, before studying at Christ Church, Oxford, from where he graduated with a second-class degree in law. He practised law as a barrister, before becoming an investment banker. However, Wheeler found his niche through IG Index, which pioneered spread betting. Originally, the company was launched to allow Britons to speculate on gold, when foreign exchange controls made it exorbitantly expensive to actually buy it.
Although a successful businessman, Wheeler was not a well-known figure nationally until he donated £5m to the Conservative Party during the 2001 election campaign. This was, and remains, the largest single donation ever made to a political party in the United Kingdom.
In January 2008, Wheeler brought an action against the government, represented by the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, and the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, over the government's process of ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon. The action sought to prevent the government from completing ratification of the treaty, on the grounds that it was illegal for a government to breach the public's legitimate expectation of adherence to manifesto and other commitments. The government, along with the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, had pledged in their 2005 manifestos to hold a referendum on the European Constitution, which Wheeler held did not have "significant or material differences" from the Treaty of Lisbon. This action failed.
Wheeler was seen as belonging to the right wing of the Conservative Party. He supported Liam Fox in the 2005 leadership contest, and switched his support to David Davis against David Cameron in the final run-off. He was critical of the leadership of David Cameron during its first few months.
On 28 March 2009, Wheeler donated £100,000 to the UK Independence Party (UKIP) after criticising David Cameron's stance towards the Treaty of Lisbon and the European Union. He said, "If they kick me out I will understand. I will be very sorry about it but it won't alter my stance." The following day he was expelled from the Conservative Party.
The Trust Party
On 29 March 2010, Wheeler announced that he was forming a new political party to be called the Trust Party and that he would run for the Bexhill and Battle seat. The seat was won by Gregory Barker for the Conservatives, but Wheeler polled 4.9% and therefore lost his deposit. The new party also fielded a candidate in Perth and North Perthshire, where it won 1.1% of the vote.
In 2011, Wheeler was appointed treasurer of UKIP to spearhead fundraising in advance of the 2014 European elections. His appointment was seen as a blow for the Conservatives because of his network of contacts. Party leader Nigel Farage said the move would enable the party to "raise serious money" as a lack of funds was "holding them back".
Vote Leave co-treasurer
At the launch of the Vote Leave campaign for Brexit in October 2015, Wheeler was reported to be one of the new group's three major donors, with Peter Cruddas and John Mills; the three men were appointed as joint co-treasurers.
Wheeler was called an "obsessive" gambler, taking a keen interest in card and risk games and having played bridge with Lord Lucan on 6 November 1974, two days before his disappearance, and with Omar Sharif, as well as being a regular competitor in World Series of Poker championships.
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- "Leighon". Retrieved 25 July 2020.
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- R (John Stuart Wheeler) v Office of the Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs  EWHC 936 (Admin)
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- Jones, George (22 February 2006). "£5m donor accuses Cameron of education U-turn". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 20 June 2008.
- Coates, Sam (29 March 2009). "Tory donor Stuart Wheeler faces expulsion over UKIP support". The Times. London. (subscription required)
- Coates, Sam (30 March 2009). "Tory donor who gave £100,000 to UKIP will be expelled from party". The Times. London. (subscription required)
- Paul Goodman, Vote Leave launches, Join it today dated 9 October 2015 at conservativehome.com
- Jagger, Suzy (27 December 2001). "Wheeler fortune". Daily Mirror. London.
- "Tim Howkins – Spread your bets". Accountancy Age. 4 April 2002.
- "Stuart Wheeler: I want my friends to break lockdown to see me before I die". The Telegraph. 12 June 2020.
- "Stuart Wheeler, spread-betting mogul who became a leading donor to the Conservative Party – obituary". The Telegraph. 23 July 2020. Retrieved 23 July 2020.
- Hope, Christopher (23 July 2020). "Millionaire Brexit backer Stuart Wheeler asked friends to break lockdown to say final farewells". The Telegraph. Retrieved 23 July 2020.
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