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My Rich List: Steve Ovett, the BBC, George Osborne, Sir John Ritblat, Pippa Middleton, Roman Abramovich and Manchester United

By Colin Grant

April 15, 2012 | 5 min read

Just who does Steve Ovett think he is?

That’s a question those who still remember him may well ask after reading about the build-up to the London 2012 Olympics in the Independent on Sunday.

Alan Hubbard reports that the former 800 metres gold medallist was invited to assist in the promotion of the Games. Ovett now lives in Australia with his family and was offered business class travel and accommodation, as well as £10,000 for one day’s work.

But that wasn’t enough for him and now he won’t be coming.

Ovett is working as a TV commentator and one can only guess that the money Down Under must be pretty damn good.

TV money is certainly good if you work at the BBC.

Daniel Boffey in The Observer tells us that two unidentified BBC executives, each on more than £100,000 a year, could be saving thousands in tax because their earnings are paid into service companies.

The complexities of this tax avoidance scheme aren’t worth exploring here but what really caught my eye in this story is that BBC Director General Mark Thompson said they are not in a senior management position.

That statement could be interpreted thus: they are either above senior management, or below it. The latter is more likely and if so what is so valuable about their work? Especially when considering Cabinet Ministers earn £134,565.

And on the subject of Cabinet Ministers, George Osborne gets widespread coverage thanks to his plan to cap charitable tax relief on giving to charity.

The Sunday Telegraph explains that extremely wealthy people often donate large chunks of their earnings to good causes in return for tax breaks.

So for example if, like Mario Balotelli, you earn in excess of £3.5 million a year you can give half of that away and only pay tax on the bit you keep.

The problem, according to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, is that some of the very rich, surprise surprise, are operating a scam at the nation’s expense.

The paper explains: “The Government claims that the rich often give to bogus charities. One such scheme is to give to a charity based overseas. The foreign charity then lends the donor back their money indefinitely.”

The paper then consulted a number of people close to Prince Charles, “who has taken a personal interest in encouraging the wealthy to support charities and cultural institutions”.

Their feelings were summed up by Sir John Ritblat, chairman of the Wallace Collection who said: “I think the Treasury are absolutely demented.”

Money, and people who have pots of it, dominate today’s news at home AND abroad.

The Mail on Sunday reveals that two of Pippa Middleton’s escorts in Paris last week are well loaded.

George Arbuthnott writes: “On Friday night the younger sister of the Duchess of Cambridge was hand in hand with television producer Antoine de Tavernost.”

Antoine, the son of a TV mogul (so that’s how he got the job), is director of top football club Bordeaux and is one of the richest men in France.

The following day she was out and about with young aristocrat Marcy de Soultrait (apparently in France Marcy is a man’s name), and his brother Viscount Arthur de Soultrait, who is one of the most successful young entrepreneurs in France and runs a clothing range which had a £10 million turnover in 2010.

But that’s small beer compared to the amount of serious dosh rushing out of Russia these days.

According to Mark Franchetti in The Sunday Times: “Wealthy Russians are embarking on an overseas spending spree, fearing that Vladimir Putin’s third term in the Kemlin will be bad for business and usher in a period of stagnation.”

He goes on to explain that in the first quarter of 2012 around £22 billion was spent on lavish homes in the USA and Britain. This year it is estimated £50 billion is expected to go abroad.

One of those taking part in the great escape is Roman Abramovich, who apparently spent £90 million on a mansion in Kensington Palace Gardens, west London. He is now fitting it out with an underground playroom complete with tennis court, spa and gym and a private museum for his six classic Ferraris.

The Chelsea owner isn’t the only football boss with big money on his mind.

The Sunday Times Business section reveals that the Glazer family are planning to float Manchester United on the Singapore stock exchange.

Going public in this way could provide the secretive American owners with up to £600 million almost overnight and would value the club at £2 billion.

Manchester United’s huge popularity in Asia is the key reason for choosing Singapore as a launch-pad.

The only question mark is: how easy will it be for loyal Old Trafford fans back home to buy shares in the club they love?

COLIN GRANT is a former journalist who now runs Spectrum PR, a Glasgow-based public relations and media consultancy.

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