the Noble Interviews / "Lord" Rothermere
....and your great grand uncle was mates with none other than Adolph Hitler?
We meet at a City of London McDonalds, with its special offers of super-sized burgers served with super-sized burgers. The curly-headed cherubic grinning man striding purposefully through the glittering glass doors is the 4th Viscount Rothermere (aka Lord), the subject of my interview today.
He shakes my hand firmly and, without first going to the counter to be served, sits down next to me. We are sitting on one of those plastic benches tilted slightly forward to discourage fast food eaters from lingering any longer than is absolutely necessary. There is an air of impish certainty, confidence, and authority about him.
DM: Hello 4th Viscount Rothermere. May I call you Vike?
VR: Of course Deacon. My pleasure.
DM: You don't want coffee Vikie?
There is a moment's hesitation as he pantomimes looking for his wallet.
VR: Actually, I rather assumed you would be buying.
DM: Of course, of course, how silly of me. I suffered this same lapse at my last interview. Wealthy people don't buy rounds do they?
VR: (chuckling) No, no, of course not. I don't actually carry cash in fact.
There is a pause as I go up to queue at the garishly illustrated counter for a takeaway latte (small).
VR: Ta. Thanks.
DM: (resuming my seat) I gather you're one of the foremost patriots of the UK with an abiding love for everything it/we stand for.
VR: Absolutely. My family has contributed much to the allure and pedigree of the UK "brand".
DM: Apart from the tax paying bit.
VR: Well of course, that goes without saying. Nobody likes paying taxes. People on wages have to because there is no escape from the PAYE scheme. But the rest of us manage our affairs through off shore companies and trust funds.
DM: You inherited your dad's (3rd Viscount) Daily Mail & General Trust plc empire in 1998. I understand the entire group is controlled through Rothermere Continuation Ltd, registered in Bermuda but run from Jersey?
VR: Yes. Of course I don't know much about all this because I have gophers who deal with all this, but I'm told that companies registered in the British Caribbean have the advantage of being “very portable”.
DM: In fact you and your favourite lawyer are directors of this company, but it is actually owned by an "unknown trust" administered in Jersey for the benefit of the Rothermere family.
VR: You seem to know a lot about our affairs, but yes, acting on the advice of my lovely lawyer (who was also my "fag" at school), we performed a perfectly legitimate offshore transaction. This avoided a lot of unnecessary taxation and Rothermere Continuation Ltd now owns all the voting shares in the Group. This has the added benefit that I receive more than £10m a year in tax free dividends.
DM: I understand that this is also due in part to your “non-domiciled” tax status.
VR: Yes, technically I live in France, but the bulk of my mansions and vast acreages are here in the UK where I create employment for peasants.
DM: Tell me more about your esteemed family.
VR: Well the first Viscount was created for my great grandaddy, Baron Harmsworth, in 1919 for non-specific services to the nation. It helped that he knew his way around a newspaper or two of course.
DM: And your great grand uncle was mates with none other than Adolph Hitler?
VR: Oh yes. We've always been outward looking in our international relationships.
DM: And it is through this "outward looking" that you feel you best demonstrate your patriotism.
VR: Absolutely. I am out there batting for Britain, especially British banking and financial services, every day of the week. I draw the line at paying for anybody else's health or education simply because I pay for all my own (tax deductably of course) and I think it's fair that they should pay for theirs.
DM: And wars?
VR: Wars are a different matter. We all need to pitch in on that one because wars serve the national interest which is all of us. Even though I don't pay taxes and therefore don't contribute to the war effort in this way, I invest heavily in companies which produce weaponry and other war consumables. The handsome returns on these investments are the just rewards of my patriotism.
DM: Vikie, it's been a pleasure.
VR: Likewise, likewise I'm sure. You must come round some time. I'd love you to meet my lawyers.
© 2013 Deacon Martin