Margaret Thatcher

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990, when she was sacked by her own Conservative Party and replaced with John Major. She was a close ally of Ronald Reagan.

She then set up Chesham Place Associates as a political consultancy and her son Mark set up the Margaret Thatcher Foundation in the USA. One of his first negotiations was with Philip Morris,

In 1992 Margaret Thatcher signed on as an international consultant to the Philip Morris tobacco company at a pay rate of US $500,000 annually, with half to be paid directly to Mrs. Thatcher and half to be paid to the Margaret Thatcher Foundation.[2].

According to the 19 July 1992 U.S. Sunday Times article, Ms. Thatcher's "advice will be sought on controversial issues including the penetration of tobacco markets in Eastern Europe and the Third World. She was also used to help them lobby against attempts to ban tobacco advertising in the European Community and to fight cigarette taxes and state-run tobacco monopolies." Thatcher was a non-smoker who spoke out against tobacco several times while Prime Minister [3] but her husband Dennis smoked.

The Independent (of London) reported that Philip Morris paid for a 70th birthday bash for Ms. Thatcher on 23 October 1995 in Washington, D.C. Eight hundred guests attended and the estimated cost of the party was $1 million.[4] [However you won't find a mention of this in the Thatcher Foundation archives.]

Political career

  • 1925-44 Before entering political life
  • 1945-70 Early career
  • 1959 Elected as Member of Parliament for Finchley. She was appointed Secretary of State for Education and Science
  • 1961 She began visiting the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) for lunches and reading its literature. She became firm friends of Antony Fisher, Ralph Harris, Arthur Seldon and Keith Joseph.
  • 1970-75 Cabinet rank politician, In 1970 Seldon invited Milton Friedman to the IEA, and she was converted to his monetarist policy. The ideas imported from Chicago had a great influence on members of the Conservative party, especially Enoch Powell, Sir Keith Joseph, and Margaret Thatcher.
  • 1974 Following the 1974 election defeat, Keith Joseph worked with Thatcher to set up the Centre for Policy Studies, a think-tank to develop policies for the new free-market Conservatism that they both favoured.
  • 1975-79 Leader of the Tory opposition. Keith Joseph, who was expected to replace Heath, withdrew from the contest (Feb 11 1975) and endorsed Thatcher. Joseph became her major economic advisor with Harris and Seldon from the IEA.
  • 1979-90 (May 4 1979 to 28 Nov 1990) she was Prime Minister
  • 1979 June during her first few months in power, she made Ralph Harris a life peer as Baron Harris of High Cross so he could sit in the House of Lords; Keith Joseph became Secretary of State for Industry. Seldon continued to run the IEA and received a CBE later. Antony Fisher was knighted just a few days before his death
  • 1982 (2 April) the military junta ruling Argentina invaded the British possessions of the Falkland Islands and South Georgia, triggering the Falklands War which became "a defining moment of her premiership". It rescued her popularity, which had sunk below that of any previous PM.
  • 1983 Thatcher now had a close admirer and ally in President Ronald Reagan - but Reagan didn't consult her when the US invaded Grenada.
  • 1984 was the year of the Miner's strike that nearly brought down the British government, and also an attempted assassination of Thatcher.
  • 1988-90 Thatcher attempted to introduce a poll tax (on inhabitants) to replace council rates. It was the most unpopular move of her career
  • 1990 Nov 28 Thatcher was forced to resign from the Prime Ministership under a Tory challenge to her leadership
  • 1992 April 9 The Tories won their fourth successive victory and Thatcher returned to the back benches.

Thatcher's son Mark was now dealing with the tobacco industry and other industries interested in gaining a foot-hold in the ex-Communist countries of East Europe. Margaret Thatcher's services were being offered exclusively to one company in one-of-five industries. Philip Morris was the winning bidder for her tobacco industry services. Shortly after, she resigned from Parliament and went to work for Philip Morris as an international lobbyist providing introductory services to the top officials in East Europe (Who saw her as a liberator). See the Margaret Thatcher Foundation web site for access to many more of her records. However searches for Philip Morris, Geoff Bible, Murray Bring and even Mark Thatcher all found nothing, so this is not likely to be a useful resource for real research. [5]

Background to the UK Thatcher/Philip Morris relationship

From 1985 - 91 the CEO/Chairman of the global Philip Morris Companies was Hamish Maxwell. He was the son of the top UK Tory politician Sir Alexander ('Sandy') Hyslop Maxwell whose pre-war business had been as the country's major tobacco importer and exporter -- and supplier of British cigarettes to Philip Morris in the USA and its subsidiary Benson & Hedges in Canada (the two companies later merged).

'Sandy' Maxwell was the UK's Permanent Under-secretary of the Home Office during World War II and, as such, he was in charge of two vital areas -- (1) the UK's internal secret services (including MI5), and (2) maintaining the country's supply of essential materials from overseas. He therefore became both the trans-Atlantic shipping controller, and the UK tobacco czar in charge of rationing cigarettes. Sandy Maxwell made the decision whether a ship crossing the Atlantic would carry ammunition and aircraft parts -- or cigarettes. Cigarettes were deemed essential war goods for morale reasons.

After the war, Sandy Maxwell remained a Permanent Under-Secretary of the Home Office and remained in charge of tobacco (still rationed) and now also tourism (the main UK fundraising business) during the reconstruction period. He was marginally embroiled in the Philby scandal: he'd been in control of MI5 during the war and his 'very close' private secretary (almost certainly his occasional mistress) Jenifer Hart [6] turned out to be a "licentious Communist". After leaving the Tory government in the 1950s with his knighthood, Sir "Sandy" Maxwell [1] became the UK tobacco industry's top lobbyist as Chairman of the Tobacco Advisory Council (TAC), which was the main UK lobby group of the day.

The rise of Hamish Maxwell

As the son of Sandy, Hamish Maxwell naturally had a meteoric rise through corporate ranks when he finally came out of university. His first career was through the tourism business of Thomas Cook & Sons which took him around the world to the USA, [2] and then through Philip Morris based in New York, which was in a new international expansion phase. For a while Hamish managed the Australian division of the company, then as manager of PM Europe (later expanded to PM International), he formed a very close coterie with two young Australian executives: R William "Bill" Murray and Geoffrey C Bible who were close companions travelling the world. They hailed from Canberra and the nearby town of Rankin Springs in Australia and they both turned out to be excellent industry strategists.

With Maxwell, they formed a triumvirate; each gave the other a leg-up as they moved up the corporate ladder from the PMI (International Division) to the New York-based corporate conglomerate. Later they were joined and supported by other Australian executives who gradually took control of the conglomerate (with its food and alcohol subsidiaries) William Webb and Andrew Whist from PM Australia, and Bryan Simpson from Rupert Murdoch's Melbourne newspaper group , the Herald & Weekly Times (and supposedly his nephew by marriage). Simpson moved up the influence chain from running the pro-cigarette advertising lobby group, the Media Council of Australia, to running the Tobacco Institute of Australia. He was then recruited by Bill Murray to run INFOTAB the international tobacco lobbying organisation from Brussels.

These executives and lobbyists were clearly all above-average, and since they were able to protect each other's back and give each other a leg-up, they quickly came to control Philip Morris International and the developing Philip Morris tobacco/food conglomerate. Finally, by using aggressive tactics, they eventually dominated the lobbying efforts of the international tobacco industry as a whole. [3]

The Thatcher/UK connection

Hamish Maxwell and Geoff Bible both became close friends of Australian publisher Rupert Murdoch through the mediation of Andrew Whist and Bryan Simpson. They put Rupert on the board of Philip Morris (in charge of the Remuneration Committee which set their salaries and bonuses!). In exchange, [4] Hamish was the first of the triumvirate (Maxwell, Murray and BIble) from Philip Morris to be given board position on News Ltd. Bible and Murray both received their rewards not long after. On his retirement many years later, Bible was hired to act as a mentor and trainer for Murdoch's second son James, after eldest son Lachlan resigned (briefly) from the company.

Murdoch had a close relationship with Prime Minister Thatcher and supported her throughout with fierce attacks on the UK union movement. So the later Thatcher consultancy operation was almost certainly organised by Rupert Murdoch who was on the Philip Morris board from 1990 on. Philip Morris and its food subsidiaries were major News Ltd's advertisers, and the Philip Morris Credit Corporation appears to have lent money to Murdoch when he had his critical financial crisis in 1990 (unproven).

News Limited and Philip Morris had an arrangement which continued over all three successive CEOs (Hamish Maxwell, R William Murray and then Geoffrey Bible). Murdoch would be on the PM Board (and in charge of the Remunerations Committee), while the successive CEOs of Philip Morris would get News Ltd board seats. [5] Murdoch's senior staff Ken Cowley, Roger Ailes and Bruce Matthews also ran various corporate lobbying programs through the Australian, US and European newspaper subsidiaries under the "Freedom To Advertise" banner.

Philip Morris was run by a three-man 'cricket-loving' team for most of the 1980s and 90s. There was very briefly an American Michael Miles as CEO in 1992 after Maxwell moved out to a position of Emeritus Chairman, but Maxwell, Bible, Murray and Murdoch combined to force him out of the company with a very generous golden handshake.

Thatcher - Post-parliamentary lobbying

After leaving parliament in 1993 Margaret Thatcher began working with her son Mark Thatcher who was, in effect, her business agent. He had made his living by exploiting his own family connections to the Prime Minister, but after a number of scandals in the UK, he was now living in Texas -- originally as a representative of the luxury automotive company Lotus Cars -- but he also ran some other scams (selling Lotus didn't need his attention 24 hours a day) He was caught for tax evasion in Texas, then later he shifted to South Africa and became an arms dealer, mercenary and loan shark. He then lost his knghthood, and was expelled from the USA and from Monaco.

Mark Thatcher set up a Margaret Thatcher Foundation with is main offices in the USA under his control, and only a branch office in the UK. He negotiated on behalf of his mother with Philip Morris (and presumably other corporations) for the Foundation to receive an (unspecified) portion of her consultancy fees ($250,000 alone in 1991) which would be little more than a laundry service for payments for lobbying activities on behalf of Philip Morris. They would retain control of how their 'grant' money was spent.

Note: The British wing of the Margaret Thatcher Foundation was dissolved in 2005 due to financial difficulties. [6] Then in 2006 Thatcher received the Ronald Reagan Freedom Award, and was designated Patron of The Heritage Foundation in 2006, she inaugurate the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom.

Philip Morris wanted to promote the idea that cheap Greek cigarettes were made from low-quality, high 'tar' tobacco and therefore unhealthy. She gave advice about how to get Minister Norman Lamont to actively seek to modify the EEC (ECOFIN) agreement. She advised them to lobby the chairman of key House of Commons Committees. Also the Prime Minister's office and Professor Bill Robinson in the Treasury. They start a campaign and get Conrad Black (owner of Daily Telegraph) to run a hard-hitting article.

Most of the meeting they were explaining the problems to her. A detailed note of this meeting was created by Sargeant, [7]

1991 Nov 1 Murray Bring has been meeting with Mark Thatcher as the agent for Margeret Thatcher. Geoffrey Bible and Ian C Sargeant had recently met with her (presumably consulting on "important excise tax issue in the Common Market" (see below). She was offering her consulting services (not associated with the Foundation) [8]

1991 Nov 20 Philip Morris has "retained former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher as a consultant". Now they need to coordinate her activities in these proposed areas:

  • risk analyses of investments they were contemplating in foreign countries
  • matters before the European Commission or Member-State Parliaments
  • strategic issues that effect their business in various parts of the world.
(She is particularly knowledgeable about the Common Market, Eastern Europe, Russia China, South Africa and Japan.)
  • She will facilitate introductions to, and meetings with, foreign government officials and business leaders.
  • She can advise us on how to approach foreign dignitaries and business leaders (the hint here is 'bribe')

Geoff Bible had already consulted with her on an important excise tax issue in the Common Market, and she was extremely helpful. [9]

1991 Nov 25 Geoffrey C Bible, the Head of Philip Morris International is quizzing his various regional managers asking for comments on the potential uses of Thatcher as a consultant. This reply specifies a need for her services in Checkoslovakia, Saudi Arabia and Russia. [10]

1991 Dec 18 William H Webb, an Australian executive at the top of Philip Morris in the USA has advised Geoff Bible (another Australian, heading Philip Morris International at this time) that his division has no use for her services. [11]

1992 Jan 7 The company’s intent was clear, as evidenced by an internal memo between two Philip Morris executives Murray H Bring and Charles R Wall

Two thoughts on Margaret Thatcher.

  1. Can she help the proposed Ad Ban Directive under wraps? I can check with Hugh or someone to check with our Brussels people.
  2. Can she help with any Eastern European countries where we are in negotiations, etc. with the governments? I do not know enough to be more specific.

1992 Feb 24 Arrangements being made for a March 3 meeting at the Worldwide Leadership Conference in Florida. They will pick here up from her Concorde in JFK and fly her to Orlando in their own Gulf-stream. [12]

1992 Mar An internal Philip Morris memo dealing with the consulting relationship. (This was eventually leaked to the Sunday London Times)

1992 Mar 3 Thatcher addressed the Philip Morris speech at the Worldwide Leadership Conference in Florida. Her staff began discussions with the company about a three-year consultancy agreement. Philip Morris sent her diary secretary a British Airways draft for £5,043.20 to cover airfares for Thatcher and a companion. [13]

1992 Mar 30 Philip Morris sent their Gulfstream jet to pick her up from Texas for her dinner with the Board of Directors in New York [14]

1992 Apr 15 A meeting by Geoff Bible with Thatcher and her son in Chicago (on April 4), had been followed by a quick visit of PM executives to Turkey where the had "a wonderful outcome from our discussion with Prime Minister Demitel and now look to Turkey with renewed optimism and vigour." [15]

1992 May 1 Philip Morris Senior VP and general counsel Murray H Bring has been advised by Mark Thatcher that she will be available for dinner with the Board of Directors (which includes two old friends, Hamish Maxwell, the son of Sir Alexander ('Sandy') Maxwell of the British Tory party, and Rupert Murdoch). Bring discusses whether they want to establish a precedent by flying her to the meeting by corporate debt (presumably she had already tentatively agreed to work with them, and they didn't want to be stuck with flying a corporate jet across the Atlantic at her beck and call) [16]

1992 May 13 Murray Bring is still dealing in some way with Mark Thatcher, who suggests that he sends briefing material for Thatcher's meeting with Philip Morris executives in Lausanne, Switzerland on June 5 directly to Julian Seymour in the London office. [17]

      In 1992 the lid blew off Mark Thatcher's $12 million dollar arms dealings. [18]            

1992 June 5 Thatcher is giving a speech to Philip Morris European executives in Lausanne Switzerland. Geoff Bible and the other executives met with both Margaret and Mark Thatcher in Lausanne. He is setting up their meetings. [19] [20] [21] [22]

1992 July 19 The UK Sunday Times article by their Insight team: "Thatcher gets $1m job with top US tobacco firm." says the final details of the contract are still to be worked out and would be signed "shortly. She became a roving ambassador for Philip Morris (an "ad hoc consultant on geopolitical issues"). At this time the communist companies were changing and the company was frantically trying to get their toe-hold in Eastern European and Asian countries which had previously had only state-owned cigarette monopolies.

They thought she could help "counter the proposed European Community ban on tobacco advertising, securing new markets in South Africa, Vietnam and China, and distribution in Russia." [23]

1992 July 17 Murray Bring is trying to discover the source of the leak to the Insight team. He has contacted Julian Seymour who headed Thatcher's private office in London -- they didn't want the payment disclosed He and Geoff Bible were to look into the source of the leak. [24] Internal PM advice re leak.

1992 July 20 The Wall Street Journal Europe also carried a story on that PM was negotiating a consulting agreement with Thatcher. [25]

1992 Jul 29 Julian Seymour, the Director of Thatcher's private office (Chesham Place Associates) writes to Murray Bring. He has straightened out the line of control and cut Mark Thatcher out of the picture. Sandy Warfield in Washington will handle the US/Foundation end. [26]

1992 Sep 30 Murray Bring has sent her private office manager a draft of the proposed contract (but with no payment figures) [27] Julian Seymour replies listing Clare Lowther and Miranda Cracroft as Thatcher's diary secretaries.

1992 Nov 10 The deal was sealed on when Philip Morris’ General Counsel, Murray Bring, wrote two letters to:

  1. Julian Seymour (Thatcher's private office director) setting out the agreed-upon terms for the consulting services:
* for three years from Jan 1 1992 (one year was almost passed) to provide a consulting service.
* her attendance at up to four meetings a year - time and place subject to mutual agreement
* ad hoc consultancy on a variety of matters that affect our business in various parts of the world
* she will facilitate introductions and meetings
* her annual fee for these services will be $250,000 (plus expenses + possible seconded employee to work in her office)
* possible support for he documentary TV programs[] [28]
  1. Thatcher Foundation representative Robert Higdon pledging $250,000 a year for three years beginning that year. Documents state that the contribution was just part of a larger financial arrangement that Philip Morris had with Thatcher: [Actually an equal amount was paid directly to her] [29]

1992 Sept 5 (Incorrect date in files) She flew over to Japan for Philip Morris [30]

1992 Nov 25 Philip Morris is paying for Margaret Thatcher's trip to Japan to speak at a meeting with Senior Management of PM International and PM Asia/Pacific region (Colleen Flinn is Legal Administrator for Alex Holtzman at PM; Clare Lowther is Thatcher's diary secretary) Note the inverted Fax line at the bottom. Chesham Place Associates which is Thatcher's office and fax address. On Dec 11 they paid British Airways £ 5,288 for the airfares for Thatcher and her companion. [:]

Margaret Thatcher and her son Mark have been lobbying on behalf of Philip Morris in Azerbaijan. Philip Morris are concerned about a BBC TV program "World in Action" which pointed out that...

... when Prime Minister, Lady Thatcher said "Smoking Kills" and now regularly meets with Foreign Governments to persuade them to lower trade barriers to, among other things, Marlboro. Taiwan, Hong Kong, China and Azerbaijan are featured. Allegations of attempts to circumvent advertising restrictions abound. Some use is made of PM internal memoranda, including one which is supposed to list those areas of the world where Lady Thatcher could be helpful. The conclusion of the programme is that Lady Thatcher has been paid to further views which she did not necessarily espouse when in Government. It even suggests that she is hardly supporting Britain when Phillip Morris succeeds in Azerbaijan against British-American Tobacco. The link here is made with a visit by her son Mark Thatcher. [31]

1993Philip Morris list of corporate consultants and funding committments for the year 1994 lists: Margaret Thatcher Foundation $122,500 (Civic)
3rd and final payment of a $250,000 grant for an eight week internship for ten Russians. [32]

1995 Oct 23 Philip Morris was underwriting Thatchers gala 70th Birthday ... because they are "proud supporters of the Foundation. PM's CEO Geoffrey C Bible is a friend of Lady Thatcher. The Foundation promotes the "principles of economic freedom and democracy in Eastern Europe and Russia. [33]

1996 Jan 20 The Times of London reported that Mark Thatcher is now driving cross-desert races in cars carrying tobacco industry brand names. The most prominent race was funded by RJ Reynolds and known as the "Camel Trophy." "Some think it an ingenious form of tobacco peddling, some a holiday, some a race, and a few merely an excuse for Mark Thatcher clones to make their mothers anxious" [34]

1996 Mar 25Philip Morris was getting numerous questions from journalists around the world about their contractual relationship with Margaret Thatcher. Collen O Flinn or PM talked to Thatcher's office and they decided to say that: "No formal consultancy relationship" existed between PM and Thatcher. (The contract had expired in December and was not renewed) [[35] [36]

1996 Mark Thatcher moved to South Africa following financial scandals; the failure of a security alarm business in the US and a prosecution for tax evasion,

1998 Mark Thatcher was investigated by South African police over a money-lending business to police officers. He counter-claimed that officers working for him as agents had defrauded him and the investigation was eventually dropped.

1999 Philip Morris elected J Dudley Fishburn to its Board. He had been parliamentary private secretary to both Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and John Major. He was also the executive editor of The Economist for 9 years. He had graduated from both Eton and Harvard (1968).

1999 Oct 13Philip Morris finally launched a major advertising campaign and website admitting cigarettes were dangerous. [37]

      In 2003 her son became Sir Mark Thatcher when he succeeded to the Thatcher baronetcy, a hereditary title given to his father in 1990. In 2004 the Sunday Times estimated his wealth at £60 million, most in offshore accounts. Then in 2005 he was given a four-year suspended jail sentence and fine in South Africa over the Equatorial Guinea coup d'état attempt in 2004. He was divorced, and his wife returned to the USA with their two children. However he is barred from entering the USA.

2013 April Margaret Thatcher died


Re the hiring of Maggie Thatcher: Bible is the Geoff referred to in the memo below -- initials GCB. Murray is the RWM. [MAM is PM CEO Michael Miles, and AGB is PM's European lobbyist Aleandro Buzzi] [38]

Bible's memo

Press Release - Company statements confidentiality statement

Her son Mark Thatcher was also involved. He was working out of Dallas Texas at the time.

There is a partly illegible handwritten note in the same files (from Corporate lawyer Murray Bring) which is difficult to decipher. However, it is clearly notes taken at the meeting with Maggie, and it gives an indication of her value to them.

  1. European parliament {generally undecipherable}
  2. Swiss issue (unknown)
  3. GCC (the Arabian gulf states) - "She will talk to the D??? in S????
  4. South Africa - coalition of Asians, Zulus, whites and cape colored ANC will negotiate. "Invest -- worth the risk"
  5. USSR A. Offer to rebuild some factories B ???? C. Talk to Turkey. D ????? E. "She will talk to Yeltzin re seriousness of problem"
  6. China A. Should we buy the HK tobacco plant. What is the prospect. B. opportunites about future. C. Not sure if HK exports will get a preference. -- depends on whether they are in GATT. D. How do we get into China? "Use HIC? business group to get in. Get the support of a city

Bible's memo about the discussion they'd had with Thatcher about China. [39] Also about South Africa [40]

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