IS BLAIR OFF TO JOIN $30BN WORLD ELITE?
HE'S EYEING UP ?250K JOB WITH ARMS TRADE LINK FIRM
Exclusive By Rupert Hamer
TONY Blair is expected to join one of the most exclusive groups of businessmen in the world after he leaves Downing Street.
The PM is being lined up for a highly lucrative position with the Carlyle Group - an American-based investment giant with strong links to the White House and the defence industry.
The firm has been nicknamed "The Ex-Presidents Club" because it has had a host of former world leaders on its books including George Bush Senior, his former secretary of state James Baker and former British PM John Major. There a also a large number of former US Army top brass.
Mr Blair has been keeping quiet about his plans after his departure from Number 10 - which could be as early as 2007 according to some Labour insiders.
But sources in the City have revealed that he is "seriously considering" a high-profile role with Carlyle - which manages $30billion (?20million) of investments worldwide.
The job could net Mr Blair up to ?500,000 a year for only a few days work a month giving speeches and making "networking" trips on behalf of the company.
The move comes after it emerged that the premier's financial affairs are in an increasingly perilous state His dream home has crashed in value by ?700,000 in just seven months and he and Cherie have to find ?13,000 a month for the mortgage.
The ?3million loan the couple took out to buy the house in London's Connaught Square is 17 times Mr Blair's current salary.
Last night one leading City source said: "Private equity firms don't come any more powerful than Carlyle. It would be a huge coup for them if they could bring Tony Blair on board.
"But the job is likely to infuriate MPs and campaigners opposed to Britain's role in the Iraq War because of Carlyle's strong links to the defence industry."
A senior Government source admitted: "We know that Tony is looking at a number of options for life after Downing Street including writing his memoirs.
"But taking certain jobs could present the Labour Party with a large headache, particularly with firms investing in the US arms industry.
"We are trying to move links with the US and the Iraq War down the agenda - and linking up with a firm like Carlyle could reopen all those wounds."
At one time, Carlyle's multi-million pound investors included Saudi members of the estranged family of al-Qaeda warlord Osama bin Laden, who have disowned him. But the family have not been involved with the group for several years.
It has been criticised for using George Bush Senior to help land business deals in the Middle East while advising the American President on sensitive issues in the region at the same time.
City experts believe Mr Blair would be ideally suited to the investment world because he has "the charm to schmooze almost anyone", according to one financier in the Square Mile.
The PM would have the added advantage of having met many of the world leaders with whom Carlyle is keen to do business.
But friends of Mr Blair insist he is considering other money-making options after leaving frontline politics.
They include a lecture tour in the United States which could net him more than ?1million and the possibility of a visiting professorship at an American university.
Job.. Bush Snr White House
HOW THE FIRM HAS LINKS AT THE TO
THE Carlyle Group is an American private investment firm which has branches across the world.
It was named after the Carlyle Hotel in New York - although it made its headquarters in Washington DC.
A range of former US leaders either work for the company or invest in it including Frank Carlucci, President Ronald Reagan's former Defence Secretary.
Former US President George Bush Senior was also involved with the huge corporation, but he left two years ago.