Who is the Brexit-supporting Lord Bamford of JCB fame? | Business

Long before Lord Bamford, the chairman of the machinery manufacturer JCB, invited Boris Johnson to speak at his company earlier this month, the billionaire had bulldozed his way into British politics.

Johnson was paid £10,000 by the company three days before he gave his 18 January Brexit-themed speech, which was widely seen as his latest tilt at the Conservative leadership and which he peppered with repeated praise for the company’s business acumen and innovation.

The payment was disclosed on the new register of MPs’ financial interests this week, which also showed that JCB was paying the former Brexit secretary David Davis £60,000 a year as an “external adviser”.

But while this has caused the odd eyebrow to arch, JCB has a long track record of working closely with top Tories to further the Conservative cause. This was the billionaire Bamford playing to form.

First, the tycoon is a director of the Centre for Policy Studies, which will forever be known as Margaret Thatcher’s favourite thinktank. Second, the Brexit-supporting Conservative peer and his family have a long history of writing cheques – not only to fund the obligatory yacht, the private jet and the classic Ferrari collection, but also in support of their favourite political causes and actors.

The Bamford family, which was said to be worth £3.6bn in last year’s Sunday Times Rich List, along with JCB have handed over almost £10m in political donations since 2001, according to records held by the Electoral Commission.

The vast majority of that largesse has benefited the Conservative party and its MPs – with former chancellor George Osborne, as well as Johnson and Davis, recorded as receiving donations ranging from £5,000 to £15,000 in the decade to 2010. Around £1.3m was donated to organisations campaigning to leave the European Union.

This all chimes with the image of Bamford, who started running JCB in 1975 after his father and company founder – Joseph Cyril Bamford – stepped down.

Born in 1945, Bamford fils was schooled at Ampleforth College, the North Yorkshire Catholic school, and then Grenoble University in the south-east of France, where he has said he did “more skiing than anything else”.

But he was quickly to grow up, taking control of the company and converting it into a firm that now employs more than 15,000 people and in 2017 had revenues topping £3bn. The company boasts, probably justifiably, that Bamford has presided over JCB winning 30 Queen’s Awards for Innovation and Enterprise.

So JCB is a business success, but it is far from just being a British success. Plenty of its triumphs have been forged overseas and, specifically, in Europe.

JCB Service – the top of the chain in the group of UK JCB companies – is owned by a company in the Netherlands, which the UK accounts say is controlled by the Bamford family. Europe accounts for 28% of the more than £3bn revenues booked at JCB Service, the largest single market, India is next with 23%, and the UK third at 19%.

But it is not just Bamford’s education, property and business that ties him to jurisdictions outside the British Isles. The register of Lords’ interests shows that Bamford owns a house in Cabasson on the French south coast, where a yacht – reportedly owned by the tycoon – is currently moored.

On Thursday the JCB private jet touched down in Barbados, which apart from being the venue where England were playing a Test match is also a part of the world in which Bamford has had other ties.

Months before he was made a peer by David Cameron, the businessman closed down a company registered in the British Virgin Islands, according to documents seen by the Guardian during the Panama Papers investigation.

This had echoes of the previous occasion Bamford had been recommended for a peerage by Cameron, shortly after the Conservatives formed a government in 2010. However, the businessman then withdrew his name from consideration.

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He told the Telegraph in 2013: “There was a black mark next to my name with the [Inland] Revenue, but PricewaterhouseCoopers, who had not been my personal accountants, did an in-depth and complete review of my accounts going back 10 years. And actually found that the revenue owed me money. [The allegations were] completely wrong.”

Other controversies include a €39.6m fine for JC Bamford Group in 2000 from the European commission for “very serious” antitrust violations.

The competition commissioner, Mario Monti, said at the time: “It is shocking that important companies present in all member states still jeopardise the most fundamental principles of the internal market to the detriment of distributors and, ultimately, consumers.”.

JCB did not respond to invitations to comment.

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