He is reputedly worth more than £800m, sports a perma-tan and is a non-dom who uses tax havens. Meet Richard Caring, the Tory party’s new best friend.
The 67-year-old tycoon, who owns a string of famous London restaurants and clubs, gave the party almost £300,000 in the third quarter of this year, more than any other individual, according to figures just published by the Electoral Commission.
The huge sum represents a serious ratcheting up of Caring’s contributions to the Tories. It sees him elevated to a position normally filled by one of several multimillionaire hedge fund managers, whose sizeable donations to the party qualify them for membership of the elite “Leader’s Club” that grants them private dinners with David Cameron.
Caring’s donation of £296,000 eclipsed that of the entrepreneur David Brownlow, who gave £260,000, and of Ian Taylor, chief executive of oil trading giant Vitol, who handed over £208,500. Christopher Rokos, a hedge fund manager who keeps a very low profile and, like Cameron went to Eton and Oxford, donated £170,000.
It is the generosity of Caring, who owns The Ivy, Le Caprice and J Sheekey restaurants, which is the most intriguing. According to official donation records, the flamboyant tycoon with the equally flamboyant hair has not given the party any money for three years. In 2012 he donated just over £50,000 and in 2010 gave almost £170,000.
As back then, this year’s donations were made by providing auction prizes – including the use of his nightclub, Annabel’s – for the Tories’ Black and White ball, which raises millions for the party’s war chest. Some in Labour, reliant on donations from the unions, and which brought in only £1.6m between July and September this year, not even half the near £3.4m that flowed to the Tories, may view Caring’s support for the Tories as a squandered opportunity. In 2006 Caring lent Labour £2m in a major coup for Tony Blair’s party.
His shifting political allegiance comes as he expands his empire. The entrepreneur, who once owned the Belgo and Strada chains as well as Wentworth golf course, is rolling out the Ivy brand and that of Soho House, in which he owns a majority stake. He also reportedly has plans to develop Annabel’s – the most famous of his several London clubs and the only nightclub ever visited by the Queen.