Financial News

  • 17 May 2013, 9:30

Tory MP Backs Cherie Blair Healthcare Firm

A prominent Conservative MP is among a clutch of investors who have committed funds to a controversial healthcare venture established by Cherie Blair.

I understand that Brooks Newmark, a member of the Treasury Select Committee and a Tory MP since the 2005 general election, has invested an undisclosed sum in Mee Healthcare, which boasts it has been "developed to revolutionise the delivery of healthcare in the UK".

The new round of investment includes a number of other individual backers besides Mr Newmark, and is thought to total several million pounds.

Mr Newmark's involvement is understood to have been attractive to Mrs Blair and her business partners because of his previous experience as a senior executive at Apollo Management, one of the world's most powerful buyout firms.

Mee, which was launched last year, is backed by a fund set up by Mrs Blair and Gail Lese, a doctor and fund manager, in 2008. To date, it has opened seven healthcare centres situated within Sainsbury's supermarkets, and is poised to announce plans to launch a further five during the course of this year.

The involvement of Mrs Blair, wife of the former Prime Minister Tony Blair, has attracted some criticism because of the opportunity to commercially exploit many of the National Health Service reforms announced under Labour administrations during the party's time in office between 1997 and 2010.

"While this venture is a commercial one, it is not about replacing the NHS or profiteering, but complementing the services it already offers," Mrs Blair told the Financial Times in an interview last year.

"Our aim is to simplify access to basic healthcare and improve medical outcomes through earlier detection and more timely referrals to GPs."

The fund headed by Mrs Blair and Ms Lese is called Allele and is expected to make other investments. It has attracted attention because it is located in the Cayman Islands - notorious as a low-tax jurisdiction.

The duo had considered appointing Cavendish Corporate Finance, an advisory firm, to help raise as much as $100m to finance the Mee venture but ultimately decided against doing so and are now raising the money privately, insiders said.

Since leaving office, Mr Blair has made tens of millions of pounds from a string of commercial activities, including acting as an adviser to JP Morgan, the Wall Street bank, and Zurich, the financial services group.