From this week's Private Eye [16-23 Sept 2011]:
Property investor Jamie Ritblat's company Delancey made a £50,000 donation to the Conservative Party just months before it bought the Olympic athletes' village in east London at a £275m loss to taxpayers.
This is the first time Ritblat, Eton-educated son of property giant John Ritblat, or his firm had donated to the Tories, according to the Electoral Commission.
Delancey bought the Olympic Village with Qatari Diar, the Qatar investment vehicle, for £557m – nearly £300m less than the Olympic Delivery Authority had paid to build it. Other bidders had offered even less, so the dead at least represented the smallest loss to the public purse.
The deal's supporters say that the Olympic homes, which have no kitchens, require a lot of remodelling before they can be rented or sold after the games. The Wellcome Foundation, which also bid, wanted a larger slice of the site and to build a research centre, which would have netted less money in the short term but potentially could have done more to create jobs and boost the economy. The strong possibility that the Delancey-Qatari owners may sell many of the properties to overseas buyers may also add controversy.
Ritblat will have plenty of opportunities to discuss these issues with the government: £50,000 buys him a place at the Tory party's “leader's group” and the chance to rub shoulders with David Cameron and other party bigwigs.
Though culture secretary Jeremy Hunt described the Stratford deal as “fantastic”, as it would “give taxpayers a great return”, Ritblat Jnr's ventures haven't always been so good for the public. Delancey was part of the notorious “Mapeley” consortium which bought all the UK's tax offices and leased them back to the UK government, with a lot of cash flowing offshore into a tax haven.