There has been considerable speculation about whether Tony Blair, the former UK prime minister and current Middle East peace envoy, is in the process of launching a private bank to service rich clients. But could the truth really be that he's setting up a family office?
Unsurprisingly, Tony Blair's office has denied the reports in the UK media that he's setting up a private bank, but that hasn't dampened down speculation.
One blogger in response to the story said this: "This Financial Services Authority filing is nothing sinister (one of Blair's companies has applied for FSA registration). A filing of this sort (I did them, for my sins, in a former life) is routinely done as part of family succession and tax-planning measures, typically when incorporating a family investment company or family limited partnership as part of establishing a 'family office'".
Blair may have got rich since he left public office – some have speculated the former prime minister and his family are at least worth £25 million – but whatever his level of assets he would appear well short of the money needed to set up a family office.
Sandy Loder, founder and chief executive of AH Loder Advisers, a family office consultancy, said normally a lot more money is needed to set up a family office.
"Think more along the lines of $250 million to really make one viable," he said. "The cost of running an office can run into millions annually."
But Loder did add that Blair's considerable earnings, including his fees from his consultancy services to JP Morgan, as well as consultancy/speaking fees from hedge fund Lansdowne Partners, could meet some of these costs.
"If he's willing to outsource much of the services, then the family office speculation could make some sense," he said.
Lawyers Chris Groves and Sophie Dworetzsky at Withers, the private client law specialist, said in a conference call that they felt it was unlikely Blair was setting up a private bank to manage money, nor were they convinced about the family office speculation.
"But it could be an advisory firm. Blair has made a lot of connections with some very wealthy individuals and those running sovereign wealth funds in the last few years," said Groves.
Tony Blair's Office said that they have made it clear he is not setting up any sort of bank and added: "There is no truth in this speculation."