Robert Mendick and Robert Watts – Telegraph.co.uk June 30, 2012
As part of a strategy to rehabilitate himself in Britain, Mr Blair said in an interview: “This notion that I want to be a billionaire with a yacht; I don’t. I am never going to be part of the super-rich. I have no interest in that at all.”
The protests, described by the interviewer as “exasperated”, appeared at odds with the lifestyle Mr Blair has enjoyed and the businesses he has established since quitting Downing Street five years ago.
Earlier this year, The Sunday Telegraph reported how one of his companies, set up to manage some of his business affairs, had an income of more than £12million in 2010/11.
Mr Blair also earns about £2.5million a year as an adviser to the US investment bank JP Morgan, a lesser sum for a similar role with Zurich insurance group and up to £200,000 a time for speeches.
He also runs a financial advisory service, Tony Blair Associates, which has lucrative deals with the oil and gas-rich governments of Kazakhstan and Kuwait and sovereign wealth funds in China and Abu Dhabi.
The Financial Times, to which he gave the interview this weekend, estimated that his income last year was £20million.
His total personal wealth, which includes a country house in Buckinghamshire and a town house in Mayfair, central London, as well as homes for his children, has been estimated at anywhere between £20million and £60million.
On his travels he tends to stay in hotel penthouse suites with an entourage including bodyguards paid for by the British taxpayer.
His friends include several billionaires, among them Rupert Murdoch.
In the interview, Mr Blair insisted that he used his private wealth to help to fund his burgeoning charitable empire, which includes a faith charity and an African charity.
But he also admitted that he had plans to expand his financial advisory service, currently registered as Firerush Ventures No. 3, which operates under a minor licence with the Financial Services Authority (FSA), although that is likely to be upgraded, it is suggested, to give the company more investment capabilities.
By the end of the year, Mr Blair’s staff, most of them employed in his charities, will have risen in number from 150 to 200. “That figure will grow significantly more in the next five years if I do not go on and do something else,” he said, adding: “The purpose is not to make money. It is to make a difference.”
Peter Kilfoyle, a former Labour minister who was Mr Blair’s campaign manager when he was elected Labour leader in 1994, but has since become a fierce critic, said: “I don’t know what he calls rich. Nobody has suggested he does have billions, but he is obsessed by money.”
It appears that Mr Blair will expand his business empire without his closest aide, Jonathan Powell, his former chief of staff in Downing Street, working quite as closely with him on certain projects.
Mr Powell has had his name withdrawn from the list of individuals on the FSA register authorised to act for Tony Blair Associates.
A source told The Sunday Telegraph yesterday: “Jonathan Powell tried to do the money thing, like Blair, but he really didn’t like it.
“He isn’t interested in making money. He didn’t like the financial stuff. He found it very unsatisfying.”
Mr Powell is now devoting much of his time to Inter Mediate, a conflict resolution body run from London.
Last night, Mr Powell said in an email response to The Sunday Telegraph that he still worked for Mr Blair on “country projects”.
Mr Powell also remains a senior adviser to the investment bank Morgan Stanley.
Mr Powell said: “I like and admire Tony Blair and still talk to him regularly.”
A spokesman for Tony Blair said: “Mr Powell is a consultant in Tony Blair’s government advisory practice.
“He has been working with Mr Blair in this role since he left office and continues to do so. They meet and speak regularly and are good friends and colleagues.”
Since leaving Downing Street, Mr Blair has faced criticism over his various roles both in business and as a Middle East peace envoy and philanthropist with claims that he has blurred the boundaries between his various interests.
In his interview with the FT, Mr Blair spoke of his regret at not becoming the European Union’s first president and raised the prospect of a comeback in British politics.
He said the “bureaucracy” of Brussels discouraged him from pursuing the EU presidency, but he would have accepted the job if it had been offered. “I sometimes wish now that when the presidency came up, I would have taken that position – and actually gone out on a more public campaign about what I thought about Europe,” he said.
“I was concerned as to whether I was going to get locked up in a bureaucracy that was going to be stifling and I did get a little alarmed about what the powers were going to be and what they were not and so on. But no, I would have taken the job.”
Mr Blair also spoke of how he missed his time as prime minister and was keen to play a role in British politics again. “It is when there are big issues that you want to be there,” he said.
He added that he still had “something to say” in politics. “If people want to listen, that’s great, and if they don’t, that’s their choice,” he said.
“I would want to emphasise how fast the world around us is changing and how incredibly dangerous it is for us to think we can stand still.”