The Conservative party has received its largest donation in more than two decades from an Egyptian-born, British-based billionaire.
Mohamed Mansour has given the party £5 million ($6.2 million) and thrown his backing behind Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, saying he understands “how growth is generated in the modern economy”.
Writing in The Telegraph on Monday, Mr Mansour, who previously spoke to The National for an Arab Showcase feature, said Mr Sunak had shown himself “to be very capable”.
He wrote: “He gets the importance of technology and innovation. He can make the modern economy work for all UK citizens.”
The £5 million donation is the second largest individual gift on record to a political party, after Lord Sainsbury of Turville gave £8 million to the Liberal Democrats in 2019.
And it matches the £5 million donation to the Conservative Party by Sir Paul Getty in 2001. Mr Mansour’s gift has contributed to one of the party’s most successful first quarters of donations in recent years.
“I believe that this country has a very capable Prime Minister,” he wrote.
“My confidence in the Prime Minister is why I was proud to become a senior treasurer of the Conservative Party last December. I want to give him the best chance of having a full five-year term and so have donated £5 million to the party’s election fighting fund. I look at what he has achieved in his first months in office and think what he could do in five years.”
‘I had to do something in my life’
Mr Mansour has overseen the expansion of his family's company, which has grown from its early beginnings as a cotton exporter to the global conglomerate it is today, with revenue of more than $7.5 billion.
He told The National in 2021 about how a period of convalescence aged 10 gave him the impetus he needed to go on to succeed in life.
Week after week he lay in plaster recuperating from horrific injuries after a car hit him as he was crossing the street.
The doctors had wanted to amputate his leg, but the headstrong boy refused, vowing to stick it out as long as necessary. It took three years.
Mr Mansour looks back on the episode as a part of his life when his father taught him how to be a good entrepreneur and an honourable man.
“That's when I developed in me that I had to do something in my life,” he told The National.
The billionaire learnt as a boy the importance of a strong work focus, determination, vision and priorities, but also trust, understanding, empathy and loyalty that goes both ways.
“People who love and respect you will do anything for you, I find, and vice versa,” Mr Mansour said.
They are the qualities he credits for his successful leadership at the helm of the Mansour Group, which has a presence in 100 countries and 60,000 employees.
The Egyptian cotton trading company was founded in 1952 and run by his father, Loutfy Mansour.
“My father always told me: ‘Mohamed, you’re a very special young man because of the strength you showed when everybody was saying that we have to amputate the leg. You’re telling the doctors, ‘No.’
“I said, ‘No’,” Mr Mansour recalls, with an edge to his voice, “and I meant it.”
Family's home seized
The fortune that his father amassed as a textiles trader was lost in 1963 when the business was nationalised by the Egyptian government.
Mr Mansour’s childhood home, with its 40 rooms and 30 staff was confiscated, and his father went from feted capitalist to persona non grata on a state income of $75 a month.
He explains how his life changed overnight, with his family unable to support him while at university in the US, forcing him to trade in his car and work as a waiter.
Back in Egypt, his father was left trying to support the family on a meagre salary, which left Mr Mansour with a lifelong belief in the importance of political stability, property rights and the rule of law.
Mr Mansour joined the company in 1973 and took it in a new direction, forming a strategic partnership first with the automotive multinational General Motors and then with the construction equipment manufacturer Caterpillar. Other leading brands, such as Philip Morris, Peugeot, MG and McDonald’s would follow.
Mr Mansour and his two brothers continued to steer the company to success after their father’s death in 1976.
In 2005 Mr Mansour stepped back from his business to serve in the Egyptian government, spending almost four years trying to modernise the country’s transport infrastructure.
In the article on Monday he says: “But when I had finished that period of service, I knew there was one country where I wanted to base my business. A place where the rule of law is paramount, property rights are respected and with an enviable record of political stability. This country: the United Kingdom.”
He says he loves and respects the country, which has welcomed himself and his family so warmly.
“It has a proud history and noble traditions. I believe that it has great days ahead of it. I want to do what I can to help this country – the place where I am watching my grandchildren grow up – achieve its great potential,” he adds.