Tony Blair made $1 million in less than three hours by brokering late night talks between billionaire businessmen trying to save a £50billion mining deal.
The former Prime Minister was drafted in with less than 24 hours to go before a long-planned merger between miner Xstrata and commodities trader Glencore was set to fall apart.
In a secret midnight meeting at luxury London hotel Claridge’s, Mr Blair acted as a mediator in negotiations between Glencore boss Ivan Glasenberg and Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani.
The Qatari royal was threatening to use the emirate’s stake in Xstrata to block the merger, unless Mr Glasenberg improved the terms of the deal.
The talks, which insiders said lasted less than three hours, ended with Mr Glasenberg submitting a higher offer, but only on condition that he becomes the leader of the combined company.
Sources familiar with the negotiations said Mr Blair became involved at the suggestion of veteran banker Michael Klein, of Citigroup, who is advising Qatar and Glencore.
‘He [Mr Blair[ has travelled the world and brokered deals with some of the most powerful people,’ said a source.
‘He was brought in for his mediation skills.’
Mr Blair is also linked to the deal via his £2.5million-a-year job as a consultant for Wall Street bank JP Morgan, which acts as an adviser to Xstrata.
And as a former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom - and ‘peace envoy’ for Western powers in the Middle East - he is highly respected by the Qatari royal family, which is seeking to use its vast oil and gas wealth to build diplomatic power in the region.
He has acted as a middleman for Qatar in the past, including in talks over an investment in the hotel group that owns Claridge’s, where the secret talks took place.
Mr Blair is thought to have earned as much as $1m (£625,000) for his eleventh-hour intervention, without which Glencore would have had to pay a £300million ‘break fee’ to Xstrata.
But the £50billion deal, originally billed as a ‘merger of equals’ between two giant commodities companies, is a long way from being completed.
Glencore has said that it wants the deal to be a full-blown takeover, in exchange for agreeing to raise its offer in the talks mediated by Mr Blair.
Mr Glasenberg, who is worth more than £4billion thanks to his 16 per cent stake in Glencore, has demanded that he be made chief executive of the combined company.
The new terms mean Xstrata boss Mick Davis, a fellow South African who has known Mr Glasenberg since the 1970s, could be pushed out of the exit door with an £8million pay-off.
He can also cash in shares he has amassed in Xstrata, worth around £30 million.
If Glencore’s bid is successful the combined entity will be one of the world’s largest mining companies.
But unlike traditional miners, it will have a huge commodities trading division, meaning that it can make money from buying and selling commodities from oil and coal, to copper and nickel, or even corn and wheat.
Glencore believes its vast intelligence network of traders - renowned for their shrewdness in spotting money-making opportunities - would have the edge over rivals such as Anglo American and BHP Billiton.
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