Elizabeth Sieff

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Biographical Information

Elizabeth Sieff, the great-granddaughter of Michael Marks who set up Marks & Spencer in 1884. She is the founder of Little Emperors, "a private club that gives members up to 60 per cent off at many of London's most exclusive shops, hotels, hair and beauty salons and restaurants." "Sieff may have an eye for the high street but her professional background is in the City where she established a new headhunting division for a private bank. Before that she worked as an assistant to interior designer Nina Campbell, and also as a banker at an oil and gas corporate finance boutique. But none of these jobs allowed her to flex her entrepreneurial muscles, so she decided to set up Little Emperors with her business partner Rebecca Masri, an investment banker, in January last year...

"Elizabeth, 29, graduated from the European Business School in France in international business and French in 2004. But she always wanted to set up her own business - retail is an integral part of her DNA. Not only did her great-grandfather found M&S, but her grandfather, Lord Israel Sieff, was chairman of the chain for many years.

"Elizabeth was brought up with her brother Daniel, 32, a media executive, in the golf-centric suburb of Wentworth, near Virginia Water in Surrey. After her father Michael --who was managing director of Marks & Spencer - died in 1987, the family moved to London, but she says her childhood memories are of being brought up in her rambling home in Surrey... When her father died, he made Elizabeth's mother - a published poet, also named Elizabeth, who now lives in Cyprus - promise never to sell the M&S shares he had inherited...

"Elizabeth's grandfather, Israel Sieff, took over as chairman of M&S following the death, in 1964, of Michael Marks' son Simon, who had worked for the family firm for over 50 years. Rather confusingly, Israel Sieff and Simon Marks married each other's sisters. Elizabeth's uncle, Marcus Sieff, ran M&S in the 1970s and early 1980s, becoming Baron Sieff of Brimpton, and died in 2001. Elizabeth's father was joint managing director of Marks & Spencer between 1971 and 1976...

"Having the Sieff name has not always been an advantage for family members. Elizabeth's uncle, Teddy Sieff, was targeted by the infamous terrorist Carlos the Jackal in 1973... After her father died, Elizabeth's mother married Lord Haslam who was chairman of British Steel and British Coal in the 1980s and also chairman of private equity firm Wasserstein Perella. Having one of Britain's top business figures as a stepfather appears to have also had an impact on Elizabeth. 'They had a very close marriage. I knew him growing up and there was always a lot of support and encouragement from him. After his death [in 2002], my mother wanted to escape London and write poetry, so she went to live in Cyprus where she is very happy. She has two volumes published now and talks to her cats, goes scuba diving and is incredibly happy, enjoying life.' Elizabeth's mother founded the Michael Sieff Foundation in 1987, which is dedicated to improving 'policy and practice' for children and young people in need around the world. The foundation organises a series of conferences that involve key speakers from central and local government, business and academia who discuss issues around children's welfare.

"The close sense of an M&S family extends to Elizabeth's choice of boyfriend, Peter Rafferty, a 30-year-old banker at BNP Paribas, with whom she now lives in Knightsbridge: 'Way back when we were both very young, his father was building a very profitable multichain store selling M&S seconds.'... "[1]

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  1. thisislondon.co.uk Elizabeth Sieff's mission to put a low price on the high life, organizational web page, accessed May 11, 2012.