Former British prime minister Tony Blair told staff Tuesday he is closing down his controversial and lucrative government advisory business to concentrate on his not-for-profit activities. Tony Blair Associates (TBA) has worked with countries including oil-rich Kazakhstan and its autocrat President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who has ruled virtually unopposed since before independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. The 63-year-old said he would still hold personal consultancy roles, but 80 percent of his time would now be spent on unpaid work.
Blair, who left office in 2007 after a decade in power, has long faced criticism at home for his work with rulers in nations like the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and China. The shake-up comes two months after Blair was severely criticised in a public inquiry which highlighted failings in Britain’s participation in the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
“Over the past nine years we have built a group of organisations employing around 200 people and working in more than 20 different countries round the world,” Blair said in a email to staff, published on his website.
He said he wanted to bring all the strands of his activities under one roof and concentrate on not-for-profit work. Blair said he would close down TBA and wind up its Windrush and Firerush subsidiaries.
“The substantial reserves that TBA has accumulated will be gifted to the not for profit work,” he said.
Windrush, which channels money for Blair’s government advisory business, more than tripled its profits in the 2014/15 financial year to £2.6 million (three million euros, USD 3.4 million).
Turnover increased to £19.6 million, up from £14.2 million the year before.
Firerush, which administers the funding for Blair and his team’s work advising companies and sovereign wealth funds, had more than £1 million in the bank at the close of the last financial year.
Blair has earned a small fortune since leaving office as an official adviser, including to the US investment bank JPMorgan Chase.
His not-for-profit work includes faith and sports foundations, and climate change and African governance initiatives.
Blair lead the Labour Party to three straight general election victories, but he has never escaped the shadow of Iraq, where violence has raged since the invasion.
Many in Britain have also viewed his moneymaking activities — including advising countries with questionable human rights records — with distaste.