Wheeler in 2009
30 January 1935|
Harrow, London, England
|Occupation||Financier, political activist, barrister|
Tessa Codrington (m. 1979–2016)
|Children||Sarah, Jacquetta, and Charlotte|
John Stuart Wheeler (born 30 January 1935) is a British financier and political activist. He made his fortune as the founder of the spread betting firm IG Index in 1974, but is best known for his political activism, being formerly a major donor to the Conservative Party and treasurer of the UK Independence Party from 2011 to 2014.
Wheeler was adopted from birth by an American father and English mother. 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.
By 2008 sales of his shares in IG Index has made Wheeler one of the 2,000 wealthiest people in the United Kingdom according to the Sunday Times Rich List, with a fortune of £40 million. Although he is a new entrant on the list, Wheeler had previously publicly stated his worth as being £90M. As part of his retreat from business, Wheeler spent £7.3M, windfall from the sale of his third tranche of shares in IG Group, on buying the Grade I listed Jacobean Chilham Castle, in Kent. He subsequently sold the rest of his shares, due in part to the cost of renovating the castle.
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 holds does 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 initially 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 only narrowly 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". During 2016 Brexit campaign Wheeler was one of the donors.
Wheeler has been called an "obsessive" gambler, taking a keen interest in card and risk games and having played bridge with Lord Lucan two days before his disappearance, and with Omar Sharif, as well as being a regular competitor in the World Poker Championship.
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