La Repubblica: Blair and his buddies - the second life as political leaders
© 05.06.2014

Tony Blair and his contracts in the Persian Gulf are worth billions. The consultancy of Felipe Gonzalez is dripping in gold. Gerhard Schroeder, is a friend of Putin who works for Gazprom. This is how plenty of former politicians have resurfaced; commanding high earnings and in relationships that often scald.

As is frequently the case in (our) jokes, a German is a clumsy simpleton. Accordingly, to celebrate his yearly remuneration as the chairman of Nord Steam, a Russian-German pipeline of Gazprom, totalling €250,000, Gerhard Schroeder, the former Chancellor of Germany, hugged Putin affectionately, in front of the television cameras, a few weeks ago in Saint Petersburg, precisely at a time when a large part of the world already regarded the Russian leader as a threat to the world peace. The cleverer ones, as in jokes, even if otherwise unscrupulous, an Englishman, Spaniards and an Italian have, until now, safeguarded their public image, despite repeated meetings and affectionate embraces with dubious individuals such as Gheddafi, the Iranian Ahmadinejad or the Kazakh, Nazarbayev, important cogs in the tricky business machine across the four corners of the world. In fact, Schroeder is not the only major former politician to have embarked on a second life providing his fine services to international business. On the contrary, he seems to be the one who earns less in comparison to those more ruthless, such as Tony Blair, Felipe Gonzalez and José Aznar, with their spoils worth millions.

That leaves only George W. Bush who is calmly spending his pension and occupying his time with painting, even signs of some talent appear in his portraits and still lifes. The other former politicians, from Clinton to John Major and Al Gore – at the very least, hold lectures and conferences which are extremely well-paid. A ninety-minute long performance given by them, usually costs from €40,000 to €80,000. In addition to this, many – Gore, Peter Mandelsonand, to cut a long story short, almost every former politician of their ilk holds a post in one or more administrative councils of multinationals and big companies. It becomes slippery here, even if only in the sense of good taste, as it is one thing to sit on an administrative council, more or less as a testimonial, and a different thing to work actively as a counsellor, putting at stake competences and relationships in order to launch investments or negotiate deals. This is where we can find the former Italian Prime Minister and the President of the European Commission, Romano Prodi. This international economic advisor has always been engaged in such activity, even before he entered politics, having both the academic and professional credentials to do so. It comes as no surprise that he is there again, back as a private citizen. It is a pity that this places him in nasty companies. Like the board of counsellors, appointed to recommend reforms to the Kazakh leader Nazarbayev, regarded by many as a cruel dictator. It is not clear what kind of reforms were put forward but the assembly is famous for the fact that, next to Prodi, there were such stars as Schroeder and, above all, Tony Blair.

In fact, the former leader of the Labour Party, no longer voted for at the age of 50, embodies better than anybody else the one who is “young and budding again”, resurfacing as a promising businessman. They reproach him in London for mixing excessively his charitable activity with political duties (of a special delegate to the Middle East) and business negotiations. But this gives the impression that the business model was by deisgn rather than accidentally. Well-organized. There exists a partnership umbrella, “Tony Blair Associates” that openly conducts commercial operations that, according to the relevant website, involve providing expert advice to governments, multinationals and institutional investors. In this role, Blair has recently signed, for instance, a contract with the government of Mongolia. But he is also extremely active in the Persian Gulf area. According to his own account, he is officially an expert advisor of individual governments and companies, and the big bank, J.P. Morgan. It is difficult to determine the truth, as the accounts of Tony Blair Associates are not at all transparent. Two associated companies, Windrush and Firerush, are limited liability companies and are therefore only obliged to publicly announce certain mandatory items.

The first is known to have invoiced for around €20,000,000 in 2012. According to some estimates, Blair earns over €30,000,000 a year: a more than respectable turnover for a man who employs 150 members of staff to work for him. This direction had been indicated to Blair by another great socialist leader, Felipe Gonzalez, who had similarly been pushed out from the world of politics soon after turning 50 years old. Gonzalez (today a lively 70-year-old, just remarried) set up Ialcan, a consultancy company with his three sons, a decade ago. This is where he channels his mediator activities. What exactly? In Europe, Felipe is essentially the man of Carlos Slim, a Mexican telecommunications magnate, the second richest man in the world, behind Bill Gates (it is rumoured, however, that this role earns him about half a million euros a year). At the same time, Gonzalez (who has never learnt English) runs a computer and editorial group Prisa, which includes among others El Pais, in Latin America. Ialcan invoices for half a million euros a year and, launched with the share capital amounting to €3,100, has now an accumulated a wealth of 2.6 million.

The one who forced himself to learn English having once left the world of politics is José Aznar, the leader of the right-centre party who replaced Gonzalez with Moncloa, only to resign as soon as he turned 50. In fact, apart from a consultancy contract with Endesa, a Spanish energy company, for the Latin America (which now belongs to Enel, the contract may rise), a large part of Aznar’s activity is connected with companies in the USA. The partner of Bush, Blair and Berlusconi in the Iraqi adventure is an advisor/consultant for Murdoch’s NewsCorp., for giant companies providing legal and accounting services, such as KPMG and Dla Piper, for energy giants such as Doheny and for the major gold mining company in the world, Barrick Gold, for which Aznar has just concluded an agreement regarding a mine in Santo Domingo.

The business machine has distanced him from politics: in 2013, Aznar spent 190 days travelling around 22 different countries, a long way from Spain. Experts say that each of these positions earns Aznar €200,000 a year. In total, the would be approximately €1 million a year but the consulting company of which he the sole administrator, Famaztella, invoiced for only €242,000 in 2013. The wealth accumulated by the company which was launched with share capital totaling only €3,000 is, however, €2 million.

Author: Maurizio Ricci
Source: La Repubblica