Irvine Laidlaw, Baron Laidlaw

Irvine Alan Stewart Laidlaw, Baron Laidlaw (born 22 December 1942 in Keith, Banffshire, Scotland) is a British businessman, and a former member of the House of Lords. In the Sunday Times Rich List 2012 ranking of the wealthiest people in the UK he was placed 105th with an estimated fortune of £745 million.[1]

The Lord Laidlaw
Irvine Laidlaw

(1942-12-22) 22 December 1942
Keith, Banffshire
Noordhoek, Cape Town
EducationMerchiston Castle School
Alma materLeeds University
Columbia Business School
Known forInstitute for International Research
Net worth£795 million (2017)
TitleBaron Laidlaw of Rothiemay
Political partyConservative Party


The son of a Banffshire mill-owner, Laidlaw was educated at Merchiston Castle School, Leeds University and New York City's Columbia Business School.[2] Laidlaw, a former member of the House of Lords, also donated $2 million to Columbia Business School for scholarships and increased opportunities for Business students.[3]

Irvine Laidlaw founded The Laidlaw Undergraduate Internship Programme in research and Leadership at the University of St Andrews, after donating to the cause. He is also an honorary graduate at the university. As well as the being the founder, Laidlaw is a trustee of The Laidlaw Schools Trust (LST), which was approved by the DfE as a multi-academy sponsor. It was established on 24 May 2012.[4]

After graduation, Laidlaw turned a small US publishing company bought in 1973 into the Institute for International Research (IIR), the world's largest conference organiser. After calling off a £500m flotation in 2001 when the market plunged, he sold in 2005 for a sum believed to be in the order of £768m.[2]

Laidlaw previously owned and raced a Jaguar, which won Le Mans a number of times throughout the 1950s, along with a number of other vintage cars, including a 1962 Ferrari GTO. in 2013, Irvine Laidlaw stopped racing.[5] He recently sold a collection of classic sports cars to raise £17 million.[6]

In 1988 Laidlaw founded Abbey Business Centres, a subsidiary of IIR providing serviced office space, meeting room facilities and virtual office packages in 13 business centres in Great Britain.[7] The first business centre opened in Glasgow, and soon the company opened up another centre in Slough, Berkshire. Other centres were added, and in 2009 a total of 13 centres made up the organisation.

In 2015, the University of Leeds launched an official opening for the £26 million Laidlaw Library, named after Irvine Laidlaw, who had previously studied economics at the University in the 1960s. His £9 million donation is the largest the university has received from any donor.[8] Laidlaw part owns a $2.1 billion wind-farm project, and earlier this year secured the largest clean-energy financing in 2015 from eight lenders, which included Deutsche Bank AG.[5]

Conservative Party donations

One of the largest financial backers of the UK's Conservative Party, Laidlaw was made a life peer as Baron Laidlaw, of Rothiemay in Banffshire on 14 June 2004.[9] According to the records of the UK Electoral Commission, on 27 November 2007, Laidlaw gave a donation of £2,990,532.20 to the Conservatives.[10] Laidlaw donated £25,000 to the 2008 London Mayoral election campaign of Boris Johnson.[2]

Tax status

In 2008, Lord Laidlaw was described by The Guardian as a "Monaco-based tax exile".[11]

Lord Laidlaw was criticised in April 2007 in the press for failing to become UK tax resident despite being appointed to the House of Lords. The BBC said that, in a letter seen by them, Laidlaw "cites a variety of personal reasons" for non-compliance.[12] Criticism by Dennis Stevenson, Baron Stevenson of Coddenham, chair of the House of Lords Appointments Commission, on assurances given to the Commission by Laidlaw to become a UK tax resident by April 2004, were followed by Laidlaw taking leave of absence from the House of Lords.[13] In 2010 following the enactment of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 he stepped down from his seat in the House of Lords to maintain his non-domiciled status and so be able to avoid paying UK residents' taxes.

Charity donations

In 2004, Laidlaw said that he would over the next 20–30 years donate most of his fortune to helping disadvantaged young people. His main vehicle was the Laidlaw Youth Project, which supported a range of charitable work for disadvantaged youngsters in Scotland from 2004 to 2007 when it became the Laidlaw Youth Trust. He has also donated:[14]

  • £2 million to The Prince's Trust[15]
  • After Moray Council earmarked Rothiemay Primary School for closure, Laidlaw donated funds to a parents campaign which successfully kept 21 schools open
  • Donated R9 million to fund the Amakhaya Ngoku housing project[16]
  • Laidlaw scholarship at Newcastle University, in which he funds 50% of the funding along with the university.
  • Supporting the Glyndebourne Festival production.[17]
  • Donating £100,000 to Scottish Opera[18]
  • Private investor for Ben Ainslie Racing[19]
  • Donor to the Rural Education Access Programme[20]
  • £40,000 to Keith Grammar School, to fund a scheme to help senior pupils prepare for the world of work
  • £1 million to Merchiston Castle School his former school; despite having disliked attending it, he eventually relented to persuasion by the headmaster and donated this sum. The new sixth-form house at the school, which his donation went some way to financing is named Laidlaw House.
  • £9 million to the University of Leeds to support the development of the new undergraduate library, the Laidlaw Library, which opened in May 2015.[21]

In 2007, he set up the Laidlaw Youth Trust which from 2007 to 2009 spent over £6 million in Scotland on good causes related to disadvantaged children and young people. In 2007, in emerged that the Scottish Executive had given sufficient donations to pay the salary of the CEO Laidlaw Youth project, Maureen McGinn – who is also the wife of Scotland's most senior civil servant, Sir John Elvidge.[22]

In 2008, Laidlaw became a sponsor to Excelsior Academy in Newcastle's West End. He donated £30,000,000 towards the construction of the school.

He closed the Trust in 2009 because he was spending more time in South Africa and said he wanted to focus his charitable giving there. It is not known how much he has gifted in his new adopted country but he was involved in some township housing project.

In 2014, an undergraduate internship scheme was set up at the University of St. Andrews through a donation from Lord Laidlaw who is an honorary graduate of the University.[23]

Personal life


Laidlaw and his wife Christine divide their time between an apartment in Monaco overlooking the harbour; and their South African home, an early 20th-century 23,200 m2 estate in Noordhoek, near Cape Town. At the time of the purchase, in November 2005, it was the country's most expensive property, bought for R106 million.

Sex life allegations

In April 2008, Laidlaw was the target of a sting operation staged by investigative journalist Mazher Mahmood on behalf of the British tabloid The News of the World, which revealed that Laidlaw hires up to five £3,000 vice girls at a time for all-night orgies involving spanking, bondage and lesbian sex at his Monaco home. After submitting a written confession to the newspaper in which he allegedly confesses a lifetime fighting sex addiction,[24] Laidlaw has reportedly checked himself into a six-week residential sex addict programme in South Africa, and donated £1 million to help fellow sufferers.[25]


Motor Racing

Laidlaw regularly competes in historic car racing around the world with his Porsche 904GTS, Porsche 904/6, Maserati 250S & Maserati 6CM. Laidlaw also won a medal in the Scottish amateur rally, using a Ford Focus ST. In 2007 Laidlaw added a 1001 hp Bugatti Veyron to his extensive car collection, which is sometimes seen between Noordhoek and Cape Town, on the world-famous coastal road Chapman's Peak Drive.

Motor Yachts

Laidlaw has owned various luxury motor yachts with the most highprofile being Oceanco built motor yacht, the Lady Christine, in 2003. [26]


Laidlaw has been active within the yacht racing for most of his working life. He has won high profile events including Key West Regatta and the Round the Island Race. And is now highly active on the maxi racing scene. Some of his yachts are as follows:

Boat Name Year Boat Type Builder Designer Notes
Varne 27
Gonna Katcha Westerly GK 29 Westerly
Highland Fling 1 Westerly GK 34 Westerly
Highland Fling 3 IOR One Tonner Farr Yacht Design
Highland Fling 5 Swan 46 Nautor's Swan German Frers
Highland Fling 6 Swan 53 Nautor's Swan German Frers
Highland Fling 7 1994 Swan 60 [27] Nautor's Swan German Frers
Carroll Marine 60 Carroll Marine Farr Yacht Design
Highland Fling Wally 80 Farr Yacht Design
Highland Fling XI 2009 Wally 82 Goetz Composites Reichel/Pugh
Highland Fling XII 2010 IRC 52 McConaghy Boats, China "New" Turbocharged TP52 now sold and called Cape Fling
Cape Fling Ker 46 Ker Yacht Design
Oui Fling [28] 2017 52ft Spirit Yachts "New" Wooden Construction classic styled stripped out racer
Highland Fling 15 2016 Swan 115 Nautor's Swan German Frers "New" Large Racer/Cruiser
Highland Fling 16 [29] 2018 Botin 56 King Marine Botin Partners "New" Raceboat


Coat of arms of Irvine Laidlaw, Baron Laidlaw
Coronet of a Baron
A Red Squirrel sejant proper.
Sable, a Chevron Or, between in chief two Bezants, and in base a Sheep statant Argent.
Dexter: a Boy wearing a Kilt of Scot Green Tartan proper.
Sinister: a Girl wearing a Dress Argent, and Sash of Scot Green Tartan proper.
SEMPER CONTENDO (Always disputing)


  1. Sunday Times Rich List 2012 online edition
  2. "Tory peer Lord Laidlaw seeks treatment for sex addiction". The Sunday Times. 27 April 2008. Retrieved 27 April 2008.
  3. "Lord Laidlaw donates $2 million for scholarships".
  4. "The Laidlaw Schools Trust approved by the DfE as a multi academy sponsor".
  5. "Wind farm clinches biggest renewable financing". Bloomberg.
  6. "Irvine Laidlaw poised to raise £17m by selling off his collection of classic sports cars". Daily Record.
  7. Wallop, Harry (2 June 2005). "Informa beats rivals to buy Laidlaw's firm for .4billion". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  8. "New state-of-the-art Leeds library". Yorkshire Evening Post.
  9. "No. 57328". The London Gazette. 17 June 2004. p. 7561.
  10. "Party donations hit midterm record of £56m". The Guardian. 21 February 2008. Retrieved 27 April 2008.
  11. Doward, Jamie (28 September 2008). "How short-selling profited the Tories A group of high-profile hedge fund managers who have been criticised for exacerbating the financial crisis are part of an elite pack of Conservative supporters, reports Jamie Doward. Could David Cameron's commitment to transforming the party image fall victim to the credit crunch?". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 28 September 2008.
  12. Row over Tories’ offshore donor, Irvine Laidlaw Sunday Times – 16 December 2007
  13. "Tory donor criticised over tax status". The Guardian. 7 June 2007. Retrieved 27 April 2008.
  14. "Tycoon Laidlaw to give away fortune". The Scotsman. 26 November 2006. Retrieved 27 April 2008.
  15. "Prince's Trust donation". The Prince's Trust. 28 June 2006. Retrieved 27 April 2008.
  16. "Lord Laidlaw donating R9 million to fund Amakhaya Ngoku housing project" (PDF). University of Cape Town. Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 October 2015.
  17. "Glyndebourne Festival season preview". Glyndebourne.
  18. "Lord Laidlaw donates to Scottish Opera". Scotland Herald.
  19. "Ainslie Announces Cup Team". Yachting World.
  20. "Rural Education Access Programme" (PDF).
  21. "About the Laidlaw Library". University Library. University of Leeds. Retrieved 23 July 2015.
  22. "Executive funded Tory tax exile's charity with taxpayers' money". Sunday Herald. 20 May 2007. Archived from the original on 28 May 2007. Retrieved 27 April 2008.
  23. { | The Laidlaw Undergraduate Internship Programme in Research and Leadership}
  24. "Lord Laidlaw's letter of confession". The News of the World. 27 April 2008. Retrieved 27 April 2008.
  25. "Top Tory Lord Laidlaw's sex games with 4 girls, one gigolo and a tri-lingual bisexual". The News of the World. 27 April 2008. Retrieved 27 April 2008.
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