Margaret Thatcher

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990, when she was sacked by her own Conservative Party and replaced with John Major. She was a close ally of Ronald Reagan.

She then set up Chesham Place Associates as a political consultancy and her son Mark set up the Margaret Thatcher Foundation in the USA. One of his first negotiations was with Philip Morris,

In 1992 Margaret Thatcher signed on as an international consultant to the Philip Morris tobacco company at a pay rate of US $500,000 annually, with half to be paid directly to Mrs. Thatcher and half to be paid to the Margaret Thatcher Foundation.[1].

According to the 19 July 1992 U.S. Sunday Times article, Ms. Thatcher's "advice will be sought on controversial issues including the penetration of tobacco markets in Eastern Europe and the Third World. She was also used to help them lobby against attempts to ban tobacco advertising in the European Community and to fight cigarette taxes and state-run tobacco monopolies." Thatcher was a non-smoker who spoke out against tobacco several times while Prime Minister [2] but her husband Dennis smoked.

The Independent (of London) reported that Philip Morris paid for a 70th birthday bash for Ms. Thatcher on 23 October 1995 in Washington, D.C. 800 guests attended and the estimated cost of the party was $1 million.[3] [However you won't find a mention of this in the Thatcher Foundation archives.]

Political service

  • 1925-44 Before entering political life
  • 1945-70 Early career
  • 1970-75 Cabinet rank politician
  • 1975-79 Leader of the Tory opposition
  • 1979-90 Prime Minister

See the Margaret Thatcher Foundation web site for access to many more of her records. However searches for Philip Morris, Geoff Bible, Murray Bring and even Mark Thatcher all found nothing, so this is not likely to be a useful resource for real research. [4]

Background to the UK Tory/Philip Morris relationship

From 1985 - 91 the CEO/Chairman of the global Philip Morris Companies was Hamish Maxwell. Hamish was the son of the top UK Tory politician Sir Alexander ('Sandy') Hyslop Maxwell whose pre-war business was as the country's major tobacco importer and exporter -- and supplier of British cigarettes to Philip Morris in the USA and its subsidiary Benson & Hedges in Canada (the two companies later merged).

'Sandy' Maxwell was the UK's Permanent Under-secretary of the Home Office. During World War II he was in charge of two vital areas -- (1) the UK's internal secret services (including MI5), and (2) maintaining the country's supply of essential materials from overseas. He therefore became the transAtlantic shipping controller, and the UK tobacco czar, controlling the rationing of cigarettes. He made the decision whether the transAtlantic shipping would carry ammunition and aircraft parts, or cigarettes -- and cigarettes were deemed essential goods for morale reasons.

After the war, he remained a Permanent Under-Secretary of the Home Office -- which left him in charge of tobacco (still rationed) and tourism (the main UK fundraising business) during the reconstruction period -- until he was marginally embroiled in the Philby scandal. He had been in control of MI5 during the war and his 'very close' private secretary (almost certainly his occasional mistress) Jenifer Hart [5] turned out to be a "licentuous communist". After leaving the Tory government in the 1950s Sir Alex "Sandy" Maxwell became the UK industry's top lobbyist as Chairman of the Tobacco Advisory Council (TAC), which was the main UK lobby group of the day.

=The rise of Hamish Maxwell

Sandy's son, Hamish Maxwell, naturally had a meteoric rise through corporate ranks -- first through the tourism business of Thomas Cook & Sons, and then through the International division of Philip Morris. For a while Hamish Maxwell managed the Australian division of the company, and later as manager of PM Europe, he formed a very close coterie with two Australian top executives -- both excellent industry strategists -- R William Murray and Geoffrey C Bible who were themselves close companions who hailed from Canberra and the nearby town of Rankin Springs in Australia.

With Maxwell, they formed a triumvirate; each gave the other a leg-up as they moved to the top of the corporate ladder. Later they were joined and supported by other Australian executives William Webb and Andrew Whist and Brian Simpson from Rupert Murdoch's Melbourne newspaper (Herald & Weekly Times --and his nephew by marriage) was bought in to run the international INFOTAB tobacco lobbying organisation from Brussels. They were clearly all above-average, and since they were able to protect each other's back and give each other a leg-up, they quickly came to control Philip Morris International. They then moved on to control the Philip Morris tobacco/food conglomerate, and finally, by using aggressive tactics, they eventually dominated the lobbying efforts of the whole global tobacco industry.

The Thatcher/UK connection

Hamish Maxwell and Geoff Bible both became close friends of Australian publisher Rupert Murdoch through Andrew Whist and Bryan Simpson, and they put Rupert on the board of Philip Morris (in charge of the Remuneration Committee which set their salaries and bonuses!) -- and Hamish was the first of the triumvirate from Philip Morris to be given board position on News Ltd. in exchange. Bible and Murray both received their rewards not long after. On retirement, Bible was hired to act as a mentor for Murdoch's second son, James, after the elder son Lachlan resigned from the company.

Murdoch had a close relationship with Prime Minister Thatcher and supported her throughout with fierce attacks on the union movement. So the Thatcher consultancy was almost certainly organised by Rupert Murdoch who was on the Philip Morris board from 1990 on. Philip Morris and its food subsidiaries were News Ltd's major advertisers, and Philip Morris appears to have lent money to Murdoch when he had his critical financial crisis (unproven).

News Limited and Philip Morris had an arrangement which continued over three successive CEOs. Murdoch would be on the PM Board (and in charge of the Remunerations Committee), while the successive CEOs of Philip Morris would get News Ltd board seats. No.3, Geoff Bible was also given a job with News Limited on retirement as the mentor and trainer of Murdoch's sons.

Philip Morris was run by a three-man 'cricket-loving' team for most of the 1980s and 90s. There was very briefly an American Michael Miles as CEO in 1992 after Maxwell moved out to a position of Emeritus Chairman, but Maxwell, Bible, Murray and Murdoch combined to force him out of the company with a very generous golden handshake.

Post-parliamentary lobbying

After leaving parliament she began working with her son Mark Thatcher; he became, in effect, her business agent. He had made his living by exploiting his family connections to the Prime Minister. But after a number of scandals in the UK, he was now living in Texas -- originally as a representative of the luxury automotive company Lotus Cars -- but he also ran some other scams (selling Lotus didn't need his attention 24 hours a day) He got caught for tax evasion in Texas, then later he shifted to South Africa and became an arms dealer, mercenary and loan shark. Then he lost his knghthood, and was expelled from the USA, and Monaco.

Mark Thatcher set up a Margaret Thatcher Foundation with is main offices in the USA under his control, and only a branch office in the UK. He negotiated on behalf of his mother with Philip Morris (and presumably other corporations) for the Foundation to receive an (unspecified) portion of her consultancy fees ($250,000 alone in 1991) which would be little more than a laundry service for payments for lobbying activities on behalf of Philip Morris. They would retain control of how their 'grant' money was spent.


UK - Company known as Chesham Place Associates

  • Julian Seymour - director of her London private office
  • Clare Lowther - diary secretary
  • Miranda Cracroft - diary secretary
  • Mrs C Crawford - her assistant and travelling companion

USA - Margaret Thatcher Foundation

  • Robert Higdon, Administrator
  • Mark Thatcher (cut out by Seymour in July 1992) was Manging Partner in "The Grantham Company" and regular travelling companion with his mother.
  • Ms Sandy Warfield,4208 Kimbrelee Court Alexandria, Virginia was the Thatcher Foundation contact

Philip Morris organisers

* Colleen O Flinn (legal administrator)


Margaret Thatcher used the alias Mrs M Moore for security purposes

Association with Think-tanks etc

Documents & Timeline

During her prime ministership she was also dealing with another Tory MP, Robert Hyslop-Maxwell ('Robin') which can only be another member of Hamish Maxwell's family. 

1980 Jun 2Priorities given to tax cuts over rates relief. [6]

1983 Oct 28Letter about delayed delivery of a letter from Home Office. [7]

1991 June Thatcher gives a speech to Philip Morris lawyers at a conference in Colorado, and begins a financial relationship with the company.

1991 Aug 13 Colleen O Flinn has obtained details of the Margaret Thatcher Foundation from Sandy Warfield. [8]

<b.1991 Aug 27 Murray Bring at Philip Morris follows up with Mark Thatcher following 'a productive and enjoyable' meeting in New York. He has consulted with Hamish Maxwell (son of Tory Sir 'Sandy' Maxwell) and they would like to proceed with a consulting arrangement with Mrs Thatcher. They want four meetings with the Board an senior management + some ad hoc consultations for advice on EC matters, etc. [9]

1991 Sep 2 Murray Bring's handnotes of a preliminary meeting with Mark Thatcher about Philip Morris's possible participation in the Margaret Thatcher Foundation and also of her consultancy work. Points discussed were:

  • Thatcher to speak at 3, 5, or 6 occasions. She was to be transported in the Philip Morris Gulf-stream jet. (they need to look into availability)
  • She will be in Europe on June 1st, and Paris on 3rd (looks OK)
  • She will have a set calendar of duties in the USA
  • She will be in Asia in Sept/Oct.
  • The office of the Foundation will be run by a British businessman who doesn't want to travel. (his name was Robert Higdon)
  • She will need to have a travelling companion to help her prepare for meetings, and maintain her schedule. [PM appears to be asked to fund this position.]

"For us" - contracts, especially outside the US ... Exposure to Mrs T .... Liason with Foreign office.
"Fees" - soft vs hard dollars ... some fee - 250 ($250,000)

The following notes appears to be Philip Morris's proposed involvement in activities that Mark Thatcher has projected for the foundation.

"The foundation" ... 250-500 (presumably thousands of dollars) a year; pre-approved, subject to agreement and specific projects (80% to grants & 20% to overhead)

  • 40 minute documentary in ??? (production/intention) on Trade problems and Unions
  • Some commercials by an Arabic company - 2 or 3 - 30 second spots
  • (??) to be used in schools re ethics and (???)
  • 5 documents re History of the 20th Century. How it will impact on the 21st Century, (Can we participate) [10]
This appears to confirm that Thatcher was to receive $250,000 for personal consulting, and that Philip Morris was being asked to fund the foundation to a similar amount, up to half-a-million, depending on their participation in documentaries, etc. It also confirms that 80% of any grant to the Foundation would also remain under the company's control (with 20% going to overheads) and only be expended on specific projects approved by the company.
Note the confirmation details in a later note: [11]

1991 Sep 30 Philip Morris memo from: Murray H Bring to Stephanie French (Vice President, Corporate Contributions)

We are about to enter into a consulting arrangement with Mrs. Thatcher. It has been suggested by her representative, Mark Thatcher, that a portion of our fee should constitute an annual $250,000 grant to the Margaret Thatcher Foundation, which will be established in the U.S. A branch of the Foundation has already been established in England.

Note that the 'branch' was in England, and the Foundation was in the USA, under Mark Thatcher's control from Texas. (A tax dodge??)

The top executives query whether Stephanie French is happy with this arrangement

In particular, we would like to know whether you think the proposed activities of the Foundation will offer opportunities for directing our grant to one of our focused areas.

This shows that they normally saw grants of this kind as payments for PR, rather than donations to worthwhile causes.

Mark Thatcher advised me that the Foundation expects to be involved in a number of educational activities, and will also be heavily involved in environmental matters. He also indicated that we would be able to target our grant to specific Foundation projects which would be approved by us in advance.

This leaves no doubt that Philip Morris had control over the allocation of their Foundation 'grant' money. Also, these negotiations appear to be quite separate from the later three-year consultancy agreement.

1991 Oct 14 Geoffrey C Bible (PM International) and Ian C Sargeant (Director Corporate Affair Europe) meeting with Mrs Thatcher and Mark Thatcher over EEC Excise Tax problems. She didn't know there were still tobacco monopolies in Europe.

Philip Morris wanted to promote the idea that cheap Greek cigarettes were made from low-quality, high 'tar' tobacco and therefore unhealthy. She gave advice about how to get Minister Norman Lamont to actively seek to modify the EEC (ECOFIN) agreement. She advised them to lobby the chairman of key House of Commons Committees. Also the Prime Minister's office and Professor Bill Robinson in the Treasury. They start a campaign and get Conrad Black (owner of Daily Telegraph) to run a hard-hitting article.

Most of the meeting they were explaining the problems to her.  A detailed note of this meeting was created by Sargeant, [12]

1991 Nov 1 Murray Bring has been meeting with Mark Thatcher as the agent for Margeret Thatcher. Geoffrey Bible and Ian C Sargeant had recently met with her (presumably consulting on "important excise tax issue in the Common Market" (see below). She was offering her consulting services (not associated with the Foundation) [13]

1991 Nov 20 Philip Morris has "retained former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher as a consultant". Now they need to coordinate her activities in these proposed areas:

  • risk analyses of investments they were contemplating in foreign countries
  • matters before the European Commission or Member-State Parliaments
  • strategic issues that effect their business in various parts of the world.
(She is particularly knowledgeable about the Common Market, Eastern Europe, Russia China, South Africa and Japan.)
  • She will facilitate introductions to, and meetings with, foreign government officials and business leaders.
  • She can advise us on how to approach foreign dignitaries and business leaders (the hint here is 'bribe')

Geoff Bible had already consulted with her on an important excise tax issue in the Common Market, and she was extremely helpful. [14]

1991 Nov 25 Geoffrey C Bible, the Head of Philip Morris International is quizzing his various regional managers asking for comments on the potential uses of Thatcher as a consultant. This reply specifies a need for her services in Checkoslovakia, Saudi Arabia and Russia. [15]

1991 Dec 18 William H Webb, an Australian executive at the top of Philip Morris in the USA has advised Geoff Bible (another Australian, heading Philip Morris International at this time) that his division has no use for her services. [16]

1992 Jan 7 The company’s intent was clear, as evidenced by an internal memo between two Philip Morris executives Murray H Bring and Charles R Wall

Two thoughts on Margaret Thatcher.

  1. Can she help the proposed Ad Ban Directive under wraps? I can check with Hugh or someone to check with our Brussels people.
  2. Can she help with any Eastern European countries where we are in negotiations, etc. with the governments? I do not know enough to be more specific.

1992 Feb 24 Arrangements being made for a March 3 meeting at the Worldwide Leadership Conference in Florida. They will pick here up from her Concorde in JFK and fly her to Orlando in their own Gulf-stream. [17]

1992 Mar An internal Philip Morris memo dealing with the consulting relationship. (This was eventually leaked to the Sunday London Times)

1992 Mar 3 Thatcher addressed the Philip Morris speech at the Worldwide Leadership Conference in Florida. Her staff began discussions with the company about a three-year consultancy agreement. Philip Morris sent her diary secretary a British Airways draft for £5,043.20 to cover airfares for Thatcher and a companion. [18]

1992 Mar 30 Philip Morris sent their Gulfstream jet to pick her up from Texas for her dinner with the Board of Directors in New York [19]

1992 Apr 15 A meeting by Geoff Bible with Thatcher and her son in Chicago (on April 4), had been followed by a quick visit of PM executives to Turkey where the had "a wonderful outcome from our discussion with Prime Minister Demitel and now look to Turkey with renewed optimism and vigour." [20]

1992 May 1 Philip Morris Senior VP and general counsel Murray H Bring has been advised by Mark Thatcher that she will be available for dinner with the Board of Directors (which includes two old friends, Hamish Maxwell, the son of Sir Alexander ('Sandy') Maxwell of the British Tory party, and Rupert Murdoch). Bring discusses whether they want to establish a precedent by flying her to the meeting by corporate debt (presumably she had already tentatively agreed to work with them, and they didn't want to be stuck with flying a corporate jet across the Atlantic at her beck and call) [21]

1992 May 13 Murray Bring is still dealing in some way with Mark Thatcher, who suggests that he sends briefing material for Thatcher's meeting with Philip Morris executives in Lausanne, Switzerland on June 5 directly to Julian Seymour in the London office. [22]

      In 1992 the lid blew off Mark Thatcher's $12 million dollar arms dealings. [23]            

1992 June 5 Thatcher is giving a speech to Philip Morris European executives in Lausanne Switzerland. Geoff Bible and the other executives met with both Margaret and Mark Thatcher in Lausanne. He is setting up their meetings. [24] [25] [26] [27]

1992 July 19 The UK Sunday Times article by their Insight team: "Thatcher gets $1m job with top US tobacco firm." says the final details of the contract are still to be worked out and would be signed "shortly. She became a roving ambassador for Philip Morris (an "ad hoc consultant on geopolitical issues"). At this time the communist companies were changing and the company was frantically trying to get their toe-hold in Eastern European and Asian countries which had previously had only state-owned cigarette monopolies.

They thought she could help "counter the proposed European Community ban on tobacco advertising, securing new markets in South Africa, Vietnam and China, and distribution in Russia." [28]

1992 July 17 Murray Bring is trying to discover the source of the leak to the Insight team. He has contacted Julian Seymour who headed Thatcher's private office in London -- they didn't want the payment disclosed He and Geoff Bible were to look into the source of the leak. [29] Internal PM advice re leak.

1992 July 20 The Wall Street Journal Europe also carried a story on that PM was negotiating a consulting agreement with Thatcher. [30]

1992 Jul 29 Julian Seymour, the Director of Thatcher's private office (Chesham Place Associates) writes to Murray Bring. He has straightened out the line of control and cut Mark Thatcher out of the picture. Sandy Warfield in Washington will handle the US/Foundation end. [31]

1992 Sep 30 Murray Bring has sent her private office manager a draft of the proposed contract (but with no payment figures) [32] Julian Seymour replies listing Clare Lowther and Miranda Cracroft as Thatcher's diary secretaries.

1992 Nov 10 The deal was sealed on when Philip Morris’ General Counsel, Murray Bring, wrote two letters to:

  1. Julian Seymour (Thatcher's private office director) setting out the agreed-upon terms for the consulting services:
* for three years from Jan 1 1992 (one year was almost passed) to provide a consulting service.
* her attendance at up to four meetings a year - time and place subject to mutual agreement
* ad hoc consultancy on a variety of matters that affect our business in various parts of the world
* she will facilitate introductions and meetings
* her annual fee for these services will be $250,000 (plus expenses + possible seconded employee to work in her office)
* possible support for he documentary TV programs[] [33]
  1. Thatcher Foundation representative Robert Higdon pledging $250,000 a year for three years beginning that year. Documents state that the contribution was just part of a larger financial arrangement that Philip Morris had with Thatcher: [Actually an equal amount was paid directly to her] [34]

1992 Sept 5 (Incorrect date in files) She flew over to Japan for Philip Morris [35]

1992 Nov 25 Philip Morris is paying for Margaret Thatcher's trip to Japan to speak at a meeting with Senior Management of PM International and PM Asia/Pacific region (Colleen Flinn is Legal Administrator for Alex Holtzman at PM; Clare Lowther is Thatcher's diary secretary) Note the inverted Fax line at the bottom. Chesham Place Associates which is Thatcher's office and fax address. On Dec 11 they paid British Airways £ 5,288 for the airfares for Thatcher and her companion. [:]

Margaret Thatcher and her son Mark have been lobbying on behalf of Philip Morris in Azerbaijan. Philip Morris are concerned about a BBC TV program "World in Action". It points out that...

... when Prime Minister, Lady Thatcher said "Smoking Kills" and now regularly meets with Foreign Governments to persuade them to lower trade barriers to, among other things Marlboro. Taiwan, Hong Kong, China and Azerbaijan are featured. Allegations of attempts to circumvent advertising restrictions abound. Some use is made of PM internal memoranda, including one which is supposed to list those areas of the world where Lady Thatcher could be helpful. The conclusion of the programme is that Lady Thatcher has been paid to further views which she did not necessarily espouse when in Government. It even suggests that she is hardly supporting Britain when Phillip Morris succeeds in Azerbaijan against British-American Tobacco. The link here is made with a visit by her son Mark Thatcher. [36]

1993Philip Morris list of corporate consultants and funding committments for the year 1994 lists: Margaret Thatcher Foundation $122,500 (Civic)
3rd and final payment of a $250,000 grant for an eight week internship for ten Russians. [37]

1995 Oct 23 Philip Morris was underwriting Thatchers gala 70th Birthday ... because they are "proud supporters of the Foundation. PM's CEO Geoffrey C Bible is a friend of Lady Thatcher. The Foundation promotes the "principles of economic freedom and democracy in Eastern Europe and Russia. [38]

1996 Jan 20 The Times of London reported that Mark Thatcher is now driving cross-desert races in cars carrying tobacco industry brand names. The most prominent race was funded by RJ Reynolds and known as the "Camel Trophy." "Some think it an ingenious form of tobacco peddling, some a holiday, some a race, and a few merely an excuse for Mark Thatcher clones to make their mothers anxious" [39]

1996 Mar 25Philip Morris was getting numerous questions from journalists around the world about their contractual relationship with Margaret Thatcher. Collen O Flinn or PM talked to Thatcher's office and they decided to say that: "No formal consultancy relationship" existed between PM and Thatcher. (The contract had expired in December and was not renewed) [[40] [41]

1996 Mark Thatcher moved to South Africa following financial scandals; the failure of a security alarm business in the US and a prosecution for tax evasion,

1998 Mark Thatcher was investigated by South African police over a money-lending business to police officers. He counter-claimed that officers working for him as agents had defrauded him and the investigation was eventually dropped.

1999 Philip Morris elected J Dudley Fishburn to its Board. He had been parliamentary private secretary to both Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and John Major. He was also the executive editor of The Economist for 9 years. He had graduated from both Eton and Harvard (1968).

1999 Oct 13Philip Morris finally launched a major advertising campaign and website admitting cigarettes were dangerous. [42]

      In 2003 her son became Sir Mark Thatcher when he succeeded to the Thatcher baronetcy, a hereditary title given to his father in 1990. In 2004 the Sunday Times estimated his wealth at £60 million, most in offshore accounts. Then in 2005 he was given a four-year suspended jail sentence and fine in South Africa over the Equatorial Guinea coup d'état attempt in 2004. He was divorced, and his wife returned to the USA with their two children. However he is barred from entering the USA.

2013 April Margaret Thatcher died


Re the hiring of Maggie Thatcher: Bible is the Geoff referred to in the memo below -- initials GCB. Murray is the RWM. [MAM is PM CEO Michael Miles, and AGB is PM's European lobbyist Aleandro Buzzi] [43]

Bible's memo

Press Release - Company statements confidentiality statement

Her son Mark Thatcher was also involved. He was working out of Dallas Texas at the time.

There is a partly illegible handwritten note in the same files (from Corporate lawyer Murray Bring) which is difficult to decipher. However, it is clearly notes taken at the meeting with Maggie, and it gives an indication of her value to them.

  1. European parliament {generally undecipherable}
  2. Swiss issue (unknown)
  3. GCC (the Arabian gulf states) - "She will talk to the D??? in S????
  4. South Africa - coalition of Asians, Zulus, whites and cape colored ANC will negotiate. "Invest -- worth the risk"
  5. USSR A. Offer to rebuild some factories B  ???? C. Talk to Turkey. D ????? E. "She will talk to Yeltzin re seriousness of problem"
  6. China A. Should we buy the HK tobacco plant. What is the prospect. B. opportunites about future. C. Not sure if HK exports will get a preference. -- depends on whether they are in GATT. D. How do we get into China? "Use HIC? business group to get in. Get the support of a city

Bible's memo about the discussion they'd had with Thatcher about China. [44] Also about South Africa [45]

Resources and articles

Related Sourcewatch


  1. Conservative Foundation About, organizational web page, accessed April 4, 2012.
  2. Motability Patrons, Governors and Members, organizational web page, accessed July 16, 2012.
  3. Past Awardees, National Committee on American Foreign Policy, accessed September 13, 2007.

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