Prowess vs prudence: the Blair-Brown battle that never dies

The long-standing rivalry between the two former prime ministers continues but now it’s centred on their finances. Sebastian Shakespeare and Joy Lo Dico crunch the numbers


How have Tony Blair and Gordon Brown fared since leaving Downing Street? The long-standing rivalry between the two men continues to this day but it’s a battle of financial prowess versus prudence.

Blair still has greater pulling power when it comes to raising big bucks, as the figures published below show. Only two weeks ago it was revealed he had garnered a £320,000 donation from Ukrainian steel magnate Victor Pinchuk to the Tony Blair Faith Foundation.

By contrast, Brown, though credited by some with having saved the world from financial disaster in 2008, hasn’t packed quite the same punch. Brown has also been a recipient of Pinchuk’s largesse, albeit on a smaller scale, having raised £60,375.83 for a speech in Yalta. Whereas Brown typically commands around £60,000 for a speech, Blair’s speaking rate is more like £200,000, according to the All-American Speakers’ website.

However, speeches are not where Blair flexes his financial muscle. There are two parts to his empire. He spends two-thirds of his time on philanthropy via the foundation and other charitable endeavours, including as envoy to the Quartet working on Middle East peace; the other third is spent advising on governance across the world, and climate change. Accounts, although posted on the Office of Tony Blair website, are opaque about his personal earnings. But his team stress that the income for his ventures does not necessarily end up in his pocket.

By contrast, Gordon Brown is obliged to account for all payments received on the House of Commons register of members’ interests as he is still a serving MP. Like Blair, he has set up an office with multiple functions. But Brown says he does not make a penny from his extra-parliamentary work and has proved excessively shy about taking public money (he renounced a prime ministerial pension, for example). All the money raised from speeches is ploughed back into the Office of Gordon & Sarah Brown and other individual charities. “Not a penny of the money goes to Mr Brown: he does not receive it and does not personally benefit from it,” his office tells the Standard. “Neither Mr nor Mrs Brown receive salary, dividends or profits from the Office of Gordon & Sarah Brown, which was constituted solely for and remains only for the purpose of employing staff to further their charitable and public service work and donating to good causes both locally and internationally.”

So how do the ex-prime ministers weigh up?


HQ: Grosvenor Square, W1, which includes Tony Blair Associates and the Government Advisory Practice. Spread over four floors, the office costs around £550,000 in rent a year. His charities the Tony Blair Faith Foundation and the African Governance Initiative have their own offices in Marble Arch .

Number of staff: 150 (including 29 for the foundation). Tony Blair has received £45 million-plus since leaving office.


  • Nov 2012: Blair was reported to have signed a £4 million deal to advise the state government of São Paulo, of which £2 million is reported to be travel, accommodation and fees for Tony Blair — a figure he disputes. This deal came through his Government Advisory Practice (thought to be part of Windrush Ventures — see below).
  • Sept 2012: Blair reportedly made £625,000 when brought in to do last-minute negotiations at midnight in Claridge’s hotel for the Xstrata-Glencore merger deal when the two companies could not agree a price. Blair was at Claridge’s for three hours.
  • May 2012: Blair was advising the government in Kazakhstan. His spokesperson says neither he nor Tony Blair Associates is “personally making a profit” from the venture. Unconfirmed figure for the deal is £16 million over two years. Has advised the government of Kuwait, UI Energy Corporation, a South Korean oil firm and Mubadala, an Abu Dhabi investment fund.
  • Aug 2010: Tony Blair: A Journey released after Random House paid around £4.6 million. Proceeds from the book went to the Royal British Legion.
  • March 2009: £364,000 for two half-hour speeches in the Philippines — more than Bill Clinton commands.


JP Morgan investment bank: Joined its International Council as an adviser. Earns around £2 million a year. Had visited Gaddafi-run Libya on behalf of the bank to lobby for the its interests.

Zurich Insurance Group: Joined the group as an adviser on climate change in 2008 for an estimated £500,000.


Prime ministerial pension of £75,000 pa plus £115,000 for continuing public duties — all ex-PMs get this.


Into a network of companies. The largest is Windrush Ventures, thought to house businesses like the Government Advisory Unit. The second is Firerush Ventures with far smaller turnovers but less detailed accounts, thought to house ventures like Tony Blair Associates. These are the companies “through which the operating costs of Tony Blair’s global activities are paid”, according to the website of the Office of Tony Blair.

Windrush Ventures

  • Accounts: to March 2012
  • Turnover: £16.1 million
  • Administrative expenses: £12.6 million
  • Profit: £3.5 million (£909,000 tax paid)
  • Employees: 29

The Tony Blair Foundation This is a registered charity promoting interfaith discussion and the alleviation of poverty.

  • Accounts: to March 2012
  • Income: £1.6 million (in previous years much higher at around £3.7 million)
  • Charitable expenditure: £3.8 million
  • Employees: 29

Blair insists he spends half his time on pro bono charitable work, including work on climate change.


HQ: The Broadgate Tower, 20 Primrose Street, EC2. Founded in 2010, the aim of the office is to “campaign for jobs and justice” in Britain and abroad. Money goes to fund Brown and his wife’s charitable and public service work, including rent and salaries, and £618,429 in charitable donations in a continuing programme of disbursements.

Number of staff: 30 (part- and full-time). Salaries, accommodation costs and staff expenses of the office cost around £550,000 a year.

Brown is said to have raised in excess of £2 million since leaving office in 2010. He raises around £900,000 a year from work as an academic, author and speechmaker.


  • Brown raised £126,380 in 2012 as Distinguished Global Leader in Residence at New York Unversity (campuses in New York, Abu Dhabi and Florence) for staff and research costs.
  • Russian banks: He raised £124,494.99 for appearing at a four-hour conference in Russia in February 2012, organised by the Troika Dialog and Sberbank. He raised £61,000 for a speech to Russian bank, Alfa, in November 2011.

All of the money raised goes to charitable causes.

2011/12 SPEECHES

These include to MPSF Inc in California, £101,412.63; to ANAP Foundation/This Day in Nigeria, £74,936.79; to Kuwait Finance House in Kuwait, £61,893; for Global Forum Secretariat in Seoul, Korea, £61,009; to Huatuo CEO Business Consultant in Shanghai, China, £61,286.29; to Abu Dhabi Education Council, £60,679.90; to Victor Pinchuk Foundation in Yalta, Ukraine, £60,375.83. Expenses for flights,accommodation and transport were all claimed separately.


Backbencher’s salary £65,738. Brown does not claim any allowance for accommodation from the public purse.


Brown renounced his PM’s pension immediately after he stepped down. He is still in line for a backbencher’s pension.


A £78,000 advance for Beyond the Crash, donated to PiggyBankKids, plus £22,500 signature advance for another book last year.


UN Special Envoy for Global Education (unpaid), Convenor of the High Level Panel on Global Education (unpaid), Board Member of the World Wide Web Foundation (unpaid) and Patron of the Burma campaign UK (unpaid).

In addition to national and international charitable and public service work, local charitable and public service activities include being Chancellor of Adam Smith College, President of the Fife Society for the Blind, Co-ordinator of the Fife History Schools Project and Convenor of the Global Fife Industry Study.

Sarah Brown is President of PiggyBankKids, and a patron and supporter of many charities including the White Ribbon Alliance, PiggyBankKids and Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centres.

An earlier version of this item used, on several occasions, the term "Gordon Brown received" when referring to monies paid in respect of Mr Brown’s speeches and other non-parliamentary work. His office has asked us to point out – and we are happy to do so for complete clarity – that he does not "receive’"any money himself, nor does it go to charity via him. All fees are paid either directly to charitable causes or to The Office of Gordon & Sarah Brown, which itself funds the couple’s charitable and public service work.

Additional reporting by Jessica Lambert Evening Standard, 21 February 2013.