Hunting Lord Mandelson (former Labour minister Peter Mandelson as was) is a traditional British media sport and his Lordship has enlivened the summer silly season once more by making an offer for an £8m house in London, which nobody apart from his bank and, presumably, himself thinks he can afford.
Mandelson, of course, has done well out of London’s property market, despite once having to resign as a minister over a £373,000 loan he failed to declare to his then building society. Even on that property he cleared a profit of £250,000.
Advertising has also played a big part in Mandy’s fortunes. He was a director of ad agency Clenmow Hornby Inge when out of government and is thought to have cleared about £1.2m when 49 per cent of the agency was bought by WPP in 2007.
And last November he announced the formation of a joint venture with Sir Martin Sorrell’s WPP, Global Counsel LLP, a limited liability partnership.
Limited liability partnerships are funny creatures, being not quite a partnership in the traditional sense and not quite a company either. In some countries they require a ‘general’ partner who does take liability for the lot but not in the UK. In effect they are companies without the usual disclosure requirements.
So Global Counsel LLP was a funny thing for WPP to invest in despite Mandy’s proven (some would say notorious) ability to hobnob with numerous oligarchs and financiers, some from the wilder fringes of commerce.
But WPP boss Sorrell was happy to trumpet the deal at the time, saying Global Counsel, which is managed by Mandelson’s old Downing Street sidekick Benjy Wegg-Prosser, would become a “world class advisory business.”
Since when, though, the business seems to have gone remarkably quiet, failing to figure on WPP’s list of member companies. This is odd because the extremely long list does include companies like Lord Bell’s Chime Communications in which WPP has a minority stake (only 12.5 per cent in Chime’s case). Technically Global Counsel isn’t a company of course but that’s splitting hairs.
However the Mail on Sunday tracked Global Counsel down to the first floor of JWT’s building (pictured) on London’s Knightsbridge Green (there isn’t a green any more) which is handily situated for London’s oligarch and hedge fund territory of Mayfair.
As it is for WPP’s Farm Street HQ, where Global Counsel is still registered.
Nobody at Global Counsel or WPP is saying anything at the moment which is understandable enough given that the focus of interest is Mandelson’s new £8m pad.
But sooner or later WPP, as a public company, will need to enlighten us about one of its investments unless the status of the operation has changed and it is no longer involved. Could Mandelson have sold his share of the business already? Is that where some of the house money has come from?
It’s all very peculiar but good of Mandy to give us something to speculate about.