Is there no end to George Osborne's ambition? (2023)

Man on a mission: George Osborne

George Osborne's first encounter with Italy's Agnelli family was typical of the former Tory Chancellor.

Asked by Suzanne Heywood, wife of the late Cabinet Secretary Jeremy Heywood, in 2018 to provide a reference to the Italian dynasty so that she could apply for a promotion, Osborne swooped. He took the opportunity to introduce himself to Italy's premier business family.

By May that year Osborne had convinced the scion of the billionaire family John Elkann – who runs the holding company Exor – to make him chair of the partners council, where he has established himself as a key adviser.

A friend of Osborne's told The Mail on Sunday: 'Suzanne tells the story at dinner parties. It's hilariously funny and everyone screams out laughing. George is ruthlessly ambitious. When he sees an opportunity he takes it.'

Last week, the former chancellor moved a step closer to the Agnellis' sacred inner family circle by securing the chair of the family's new investment fund, named Lingotto, where he will work alongside maverick Scottish fund manager James Anderson. The new fund will manage £2.4 billion.

'I haven't heard this much talk in town for quite some time,' said Neil Wilson, analyst at and Finalto. 'I'm sure there will be quite a few fund managers stuck at the big houses hoping they get a call on the mobile.'

The fund will invest across all asset classes – including Anderson's speciality technology stocks – despite their poor performance in the current high interest rate environment.

The position is yet another feather in Osborne's cap. He remains at boutique investment bank Robey Warshaw and is a director at his father's wallpaper company Osborne & Little, as well as chairman of the British Museum. He was previously editor of London's Evening Standard newspaper.

But for the man who drives a Maserati and sees himself as a 'master of the Universe', it is the role with the Agnellis that is undoubtedly the most glamorous.


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The Agnellis are Italy's first family. They control car giant Stellantis, football club Juventus, Ferrari, the shoemaker Louboutin and CNH Industrial.

The clan is now run by John Elkann, whose great-great-grandfather Giovanni Agnelli founded Fiat in 1899. Giovanni's grandson Gianni was an Italian senator with a colourful romantic life. He was rumoured to have dated Jackie Kennedy, while Swedish actress Anita Ekberg referred to him as the love of her life despite him being married.

The family has never been far from controversy. In 2016, John Elkann's younger brother Lapo was caught faking his own kidnapping after indulging in a two-day drug binge and running out of money.

And for more than 20 years Juventus has been clouded by a series of allegations of match fixing and false accounting.

The accusations have tainted the family name. Last November, Andrea Agnelli – John Elkann's cousin – resigned as chairman of Juventus.

With the family never far from scandal, it is easy to understand why John Elkann holds Osborne in such high regard. Sources say they chat regularly on the phone.

Elkann, 47, and Osborne, 51, both have experience managing family businesses and dealing with their high-profile careers.

'I think John finds George's council comforting,' a source said. 'They're both shrewd strategic thinkers.'

Dynasty: John Elkann and his wife Lavinia Borromeo (top) at this year's Met Gala and (above) the late Giovanni Agnelli, wife Marella and their family

Osborne has always courted the glamorous and rich and it has sometimes landed him in hot water.

In 2008, Osborne spent a weekend on a yacht in Corfu with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, which led to accusations of secret donations.

At the time Osborne was the leading light in the 'Notting Hill set', which included David Cameron and Michael Gove, which set about modernising the Tory party.

The source added: 'David Cameron did the hard yards with the shire Tories and the membership. He hosted the back garden barbecues. George didn't.'

Osborne is a man who crosses the political divide. He is close friends with New Labour's Lord Mandelson, who was also on the boat with Deripaska, as well as Republican Mitt Romney, who unsuccessfully ran for president in 2012.

The big question is whether Osborne and Anderson will be able to make money for the Agnellis in the current investment environment.

Interest rates and inflation are high, tech has fallen out of fashion and most savvy investors have headed for the hills, opting for cash or government bonds.

In a coveted and varied career, this could be Osborne's toughest test yet.


Hands-on: Nick Clegg

When the Conservatives formed a coalition government in 2010 with the Liberal Democrats, David Cameron was the leader of the pack.

The charming Old Etonian famously cajoled Nick Clegg in a love bomb press conference in the Number 10 back garden, heralding a new era of British politics.

With his sidekick George Osborne, Cameron would chip away at the Liberal Democrats, leaving the party and Clegg wiped out as the Tories took power outright in the 2015 general election.

Cameron's confidence, swagger, family ties to the City and his taste for risk would surely have made him a very rich man by now. But more than 10 years on, it is Clegg who has emerged dominant.

He has amassed a multi-million-dollar fortune as the vice-president for global affairs at social media giant Facebook.

On top of his share options he also takes home around £3 million per year in salary, while his Spanish wife Miriam Gonzalez Durantez is a high-flying lawyer.

Even Osborne, who earns handsomely as a banker, is unlikely to match the earning power of the Cleggs.

By contrast, Cameron's fall from grace since the Brexit vote has been difficult to watch, having been caught up in a string of business scandals, most famously Greensill in 2021.

He also had to step down from IT firm Afiniti after the founder was accused of sexual assault by a former employee, leaving the former prime minister with plenty of time to twiddle his thumbs in his Cotswold shepherd's hut.

Who'd have thought on that fateful day in the Number 10 garden, with the ceanothus and wisteria in full, glorious bloom that Clegg would come to reign victorious?

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