The scrap dealer’s son who met Queen at Bal­moral

The Mail on Sunday - - News - By Ian Gal­lagher

FOR David ‘Spotty’ Row­land, a visit to Bal­moral to meet the Queen in the sum­mer of 2010 marked the peak of his so­cial as­cent.

Mr Row­land’s host that day was his old friend Prince An­drew, who, having in­tro­duced him to his mother, found a se­cluded spot on the Dee­side es­tate for the two men to have lunch.

Per­haps the se­cre­tive prop­erty mag­nate, then 65, al­lowed him­self a moment of re­flec­tion as he drank in his sur­round­ings. In ad­di­tion to count­ing Roy­alty among his ac­quain­tances, he was one of the rich­est men in Bri­tain and, as the Tories most gen­er­ous bene­fac­tor – he once paid £20,000 for a por­trait of then Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron – had just been ap­pointed party trea­surer.

Not bad for a scrap metal dealer’s son from South Lon­don who left school with­out a sin­gle qual­i­fi­ca­tion.

But just nine days af­ter his Bal­moral so­journ (An­drew’s pae­dophile friend Jef­frey Ep­stein was given a sim­i­lar tour six years ear­lier), Mr Row­land quit be­fore he could take up his new Tory post. It fol­lowed me­dia scru­tiny of his busi­ness deal­ings and colour­ful pri­vate life, and fears he might tar­nish the party’s rep­u­ta­tion.

Iron­i­cally, it was his links to Roy­alty, along with his cash, that had re­as­sured party chiefs when doubts about his suit­abil­ity first emerged.

Start­ing his work­ing life as an of­fice

boy, he bought his first house at 18, sold it, bought an­other one, sold that and formed his own prop­erty com­pany.

By the time he was 23, he had made his first mil­lion and he floated his com­pany, Ford­ham, on the Stock Ex­change a year later. The pre­co­cious en­trepreneur was dubbed ‘Spotty’ be­cause of his rel­a­tive youth and lingering acne – and the nick­name stuck.

His busi­ness ac­tiv­i­ties fre­quently kept him in the head­lines. He was one of the first fi­nanciers to spot the po­ten­tial money-mak­ing value of top soc­cer clubs, and was the se­cret fig­ure be­hind the £800,000 takeover of Ed­in­burgh Hiber­nian, par­ent com­pany of Hibs foot­ball club in the Scot­tish cap­i­tal, in 1987.

But the deal turned sour when the com­pany went into re­ceiver­ship – af­ter having asked thou­sands of fans to plough their money into the club.

In ad­di­tion, he used one of his trusts to buy the up­mar­ket es­tate agents Ch­ester­ton, which later also went into re­ceiver­ship af­ter 200 years of trad­ing.

His UK in­ter­ests were first con­trolled by com­pa­nies in the Bahamas and Panama be­fore they were trans­ferred un­der the aegis of fam­ily trusts to the tax haven of Guernsey, where Mr Row­land oc­cu­pies the is­land’s largest pri­vately owned es­tate. His crit­ics speak of his vain­glory, which peaked with him erect­ing a statue of him­self out­side his man­sion, Hav­il­land Hall, and un­veiled by Prince An­drew. Who else?

Mem­bers of the Royal Fam­ily vis­it­ing the is­land have al­ways stayed at Gov­ern­ment House, of­fi­cial home of the Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor. On this oc­ca­sion, 2005, An­drew stayed with the Row­lands.

The of­fi­cial ex­pla­na­tion was that ‘it was go­ing to be a late night’.

How the two men first be­came friends is not known, but, as with Ep­stein, there is a strong sym­bi­otic el­e­ment to the re­la­tion­ship. One friend of the Prince said: ‘Row­land is like an older sur­ro­gate brother to An­drew.’

Like Ep­stein, Mr Row­land once came to the res­cue of the Duchess of York, pay­ing £40,000 to help clear her debts.

The two men ap­peared pub­licly together in 2009. This time it was the Duke of York’s services that were re­quired. He un­veiled his friend’s lat­est ac­qui­si­tion, the Lux­em­bourg arm of an Ice­landic bank he snapped up af­ter it suc­cumbed to the in­ter­na­tional fi­nan­cial crash. It was re­named

David is like an older sur­ro­gate brother to Prince An­drew

Banque Hav­il­land af­ter his man­sion. At the time An­drew said: ‘In the past I have had the plea­sure to meet and work with the Row­land fam­ily in the frame­work of my func­tions and I wish the fam­ily ev­ery success in this new busi­ness ven­ture.’

Fur­ther links sur­faced in 2011 when The Mail on Sun­day re­vealed that the two men se­cretly flew to Libya together when the Prince met Colonel Gaddafi.

Having built a £730 mil­lion for­tune, Mr Row­land was a tax ex­ile for more than 30 years but re­turned to the UK be­fore the 2010 Gen­eral Elec­tion so he could pump £2.7 mil­lion into the Tories’ cam­paign war chest.

Jonathan Row­land, 44, the se­cond of David’s eight chil­dren from two mar­riages, in­her­ited his father’s en­tre­pre­neur­ial flair.

He left school at 16 but seized the op­por­tu­nity of the dot­com boom of the late 1990s to make £42 mil­lion from an in­ter­net in­vest­ment com­pany called Jel­lyWorks. At one point its shares rose 2,000 per cent in a few days.

He tried to re­peat the success in 2011 with Jel­lyBook. He launched the in­vest­ment firm at that year’s Monaco Grand Prix, char­ter­ing a 161ft yacht with Ital­ian mar­ble floors to schmooze clients.

The busi­ness later had to be wound down af­ter Jonathan suf­fered a stroke in 2013.

Jonathan Row­land

DOT­COM TY­COON:

SO­CIAL AS­CENT: David Row­land at Princess Eu­ge­nie’s wed­ding, and, in­set, in his youth

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