Conservative treasurer Mohamed Mansour on his patriotic triggers

In his new autobiography, the billionaire donor hails his inspirational landscape from Egypt's pyramids to St Paul's Cathedral

Billionaire Mohamed Mansour believes the way the Mansour Group operates reflects on the family name, and the way family members conduct themselves reflects on the company. 'The link is inextricable,' he says. Bloomberg via Getty Images
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The beating heart of our empire started on home soil in my father’s country of birth, where I had ridden horses across the sand hills and desert landscapes in the shadow of the Pyramids.

I carry Egypt in my blood and heart but am also a citizen of the world whose home in London makes me feel grateful and is a place to which I can also say I belong.

What I own and run today stretches from Cairo to California. It started from watching my father work without pause in Alexandria.

Reputation was everything. He was very proud of our family history as well as our country’s heritage. He was patriotic to his core and, of course, Egyptian cotton was a defining part of him as well as his signature – making and exporting the finest quality cloth all over the world.

The identity of Egypt for most people is defined by the Pyramids, which I saw with wondrous eyes growing up. They are the pinnacle of what an extreme vision and enormous hard work, thought up by the pharaohs and the people who built them, can result in. That incredible wonder has never left me, and never will.

Their proud silhouettes are seared into my mind as a tribute to family and fortune, to past and future, that honours the dead and feeds the imagination of the living. They represent both hope and glory.

Egypt has a way of casting a spell and enabling me to do things. As a boy I was taken to those ancient stone symbols of genius and power. A true wonder of the world, and on my doorstep. Impossible things that were built. What did Egyptians do all those millennia back? They created legacy. Egypt was my beginning and will continue to define me until the very end.

Our regal past is potent: pharaohs, Cleopatra, sarcophagi and jewels unmatched in aesthetic glamour, a heritage that catches the imagination of the world. Many of the artefacts and narrative of several millennia today are displayed afresh in the Grand Egyptian Museum, the largest and, surely, the greatest museum of ancient times in the world.

I say this with particular pride as I play a small part as one of the only trustees on its board from the private sector. The museum is destined to be one of the most popular on the planet.

I see Egypt as a place defined by its historic uniqueness and, also, as a place for building dreams and taking opportunities: like the ebb and flow of the Nile, my family’s life has seen great lows and highs, from creation to destruction and back again.

In the more recent past we have seen that on an epic scale with Covid-19 impacting the two countries I love most. Both, fortunately, survived great difficulties during the pandemic.

As with all crises, it brought reflection and reactions. We learned how to inspire, survive and prosper when the world was in danger of grinding to a halt. It was a period to test character and values. To decide what you protect, and how you value all you do and want.

My family and I knew we had to give. We have been so fortunate and have always gained strength from giving just as we gained opportunities when people gave to us in our early days.

Second chances are a theme of my life. I was given one at university. My father was even given a third chance to build a business after twice having it taken from him. When Covid-19 hit Egypt, my brothers and I gave $11.5 million to support the fight against the virus.

We made donations to help African countries. As a family company, in times of difficulty, you look after your people and do all that you can to support your communities.

I was also moved to give in the UK as I saw the strangulation on the economy as the country closed down and struggled to reopen. I love Britain: its people, way of life, strong safe-guarding legal system, landscapes and cities. I love its traditions and sense of humour, and the candour and straight-dealing of the people.

The UK has given me a second home and security, as well as a sanctuary and base to foster a global business. And it has given me a third chance in my life. This is why it fills me with such pride to be able to do whatever I can to serve the country.

I was so honoured to be appointed as senior treasurer of the UK Conservative Party in December 2022. The party of Churchill is a great political movement and one of the oldest political parties in the world.

Another moment of clarity was when I was approached to contribute to a national memorial at St Paul’s Cathedral in London for the people who had died due to Covid-19 complications in the UK. I felt an immediate desire to help mark this historic pandemic, and I liked that this was a digital memorial as well as the first new stone structure added since Christopher Wren laid its foundation stone in the 17th century.

Two epic monuments in two great countries: the Pyramids and St Paul’s. They are emblematic and glorious icons known across the globe. They trigger patriotic faith and belief, and are able to take death while elevating us all to a higher plain of thought, philosophy and prayer.

Contributing to the St Paul’s memorial linked to my gratitude to Britain and marked my shared grief over the losses that had left Britain mourning on a scale not seen since World War II.

It was a coalition of people of different faiths – Muslims, Jews, Christians and atheists – that touched the soul in combination with the overwhelming need for people to put other people first.

I returned to my memory as a boy of seeing the Pyramids when I took my family to the memorial at St Paul’s. Its dome, framed by the spires of Wren’s architectural design, has dominated the city skyline for over three centuries and has borne witness to the funerals of Lord Nelson and Winston Churchill; the jubilee celebrations of Queen Victoria; and the wedding of Charles and Diana.

The cathedral was a project that took leadership, as well as money, to succeed and prosper. In our own ways, we are all Christopher Wrens; trying to build and make something worthwhile. They wanted things to last. They wanted to celebrate what people can do when they come together. They had vision and were lucky enough to be able to fulfil it.

I am one of the luckiest people on the planet, having overcome huge medical challenges before being able to achieve wealth and construct a business empire that is still expanding. Hard work, and an insatiable, never-quenched thirst to succeed, grow and create opportunities for my family and others are so important, too.

I have always taken a values-driven approach. Integrity, honesty and transparency are the roots that underpin our empire. Our logo shows two hands: cradling and nurturing.

It is not because we were lucky and struck oil that we were able to be so fortunate and have more than I ever dreamed of as a young man. It’s been a hard slog: it’s been never giving up. Caring for people. Fighting for what is right. Having a vision. Knowing what really matters.

I have dedicated my working life to preserving the honour and dignity of the Mansour name. The way the business operates reflects on our name, and the way we conduct ourselves reflects on the company. The link is inextricable.

Life has been a road of many challenges, myriad obstacles that I have had to overcome, which shaped my character and personality. When I was a younger man, people told me I could be difficult but, like everyone, you adjust over time, your priorities mature and you realise what is important.

I recently came across, through a friend of mine, one of the shortest poems ever written and it amused me, not least due to my love of tea, but because it made me think. It is an elegant seven-word poem written by Samuel Menashe, a New Yorker, who also fell in love with Britain:

A pot poured out

Fulfills its spout

Though not as grand or totemic in stature as, say, St Paul’s or the Pyramids, it is a simple call for everything in life to be purposeful and have some meaning. It takes the image of something that a great majority of us use every day, and unearths a beauty, a perfection and aspiration.

Even the smallest things can mirror the greatest ambitions and achievements. I think of it as a farewell sign of what we must all do: to do all we can, to give all we can, to work as hard as we can and to take opportunities at every turn and use them. They are often God-given but man-made.

This is an edited extract of ‘Drive to Succeed: The Making of an Egyptian Titan’, by Mohamed Mansour with Andrew Cave (Ebury Press, £25), available in hardback now.

Updated: January 24, 2024, 11:51 AM