Mohamed Mansour: the tycoon behind the Tory’s biggest donation in decades

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The Egyptian-born tycoon who has given Britain’s Conservative party its largest donation since 2001 is a self-made billionaire who says his ambitions for the UK “match” those of the country’s “very capable” prime minister.

Mohamed Mansour, whose £5mn donation doubled the Tories’ donation tally in the last quarter, is a naturalised UK citizen who still presides over Mansour Group, the sprawling Cairo-based family firm.

With an annual turnover of more than $7.5bn the conglomerate was created through partnerships with US corporate heavyweights, including General Motors and Caterpillar, and has arms in real estate and banking as well as holding Egypt’s McDonald’s franchise and owning a large supermarket chain.

“I’ve never been a one man show,” he said in an interview with the Financial Times. “I always manage through very capable men and women.”

Mansour was Egypt’s transport minister between 2005 and 2009, appointed to bring his private-sector expertise to the country’s accident prone railways system. He moved to the UK in 2009 and in 2010 he set up Man Capital, one of the biggest family offices in the UK, with investments across the world.

Mohamed Mansour, then Egyptian transport minister, talking to then US vice-president Dick Cheney, right, in Cairo in 2007 © Olivier Knox/AFP/Getty Images

The billionaire first donated to the Conservatives in 2016 and believes the party can still win the next election despite trailing Labour by an average of 15 points, noting that the polls are “slowly narrowing”.

“I believe this country has a very capable prime minister, Rishi Sunak,” he said. “He understands what growth is about in a modern economy. He understands innovation and he understands technology, which is vital to the future of growth.”

He added that Sunak’s five pledges — halving inflation, growing the economy, reducing debt, cutting NHS waiting list and stopping the boats — have “added purpose and accountability to the government”.

“I respect a leader who sets out a clear programme and is willing to be judged on its delivery,” he said.

An early investor in Facebook, Uber and Airbnb and co-founder of 1984 Ventures, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm, Mansour added that his views on technology and innovation “match” those of Sunak.

“The UK could become a major force in innovation and technology by encouraging the right young men and women to come and stay and prosper,” he said. “I would also like to see the stock exchange, the Footsie, encourage new start-ups and be able to keep them here.”

A Conservative official said Mansour was known to be “quite friendly” with former party chair Nadhim Zahawi, who is credited internally with ushering the businessman deeper into the Tory fold. He was appointed the party’s senior treasurer in December.

The role involves leading a fundraising team and introducing associates to the party, the official said. Mansour refused to discuss his fundraising activities.

The billionaire faced criticism in the British press earlier this year when it was discovered that his Caterpillar dealership, Unatrac, was supplying machinery to Russia’s oil and gas industry despite the sanctions imposed in the wake of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. Mansour said that Unatrac’s operations in Russia were suspended several weeks ago.

One corporate banker who knows Mansour described him as “courteous in an old-fashioned way, very smart, keen on public services. I think he’s one of these quiet generous types of people, he’s not splashy or noisy.”

Hisham Fahmy, Washington-based chief executive of corporate lobby group AmCham Egypt, worked with Mansour in Cairo between 1999 and 2003, when the tycoon was president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt.

Mansour was “very good at sizing up people and he is very loyal to his people. He listens to others but makes up his own mind. He is very generous, but also very astute and not afraid to make decisions,” said Fahmy.

A life-long football fan, in May Mansour became co-owner of a new Major League Soccer club in San Diego, California. He also backs youth sporting initiatives, including a network of football academies in Ghana, Egypt and Denmark.

Mohamed Mansour, centre, after becoming the co-owner of San Diego FC, which is set to join the Major League Soccer in 2025
Mohamed Mansour, centre, after becoming the co-owner of San Diego FC, which is set to join the Major League Soccer in 2025 © Gregory Bull/AP

Despite his wealth, the billionaire has in the past been a victim of Egypt’s volatile politics. Born in Alexandria, his father Loutfy Mansour was a prosperous cotton exporter whose company was nationalised by Egypt’s socialist president Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1963. The young Mansour was studying engineering at North Carolina State University and found himself without funding. He got a job at a diner and was known locally as “Mo the waiter”.

“I lived hand to mouth and this taught me the value of hard work and of money and of being prudent,” said Mansour.

After completing an MBA and a two-year stint teaching at a university, he returned to Egypt and worked in the GM dealership his father had established in 1975. After his father’s death, the company thrived under the leadership of Mansour and his brothers and is a dominant force in the Egyptian private sector, with operations across the Middle East and Africa.

The former waiter now lives in Belgravia, London, and his two sons and four grandchildren also live in the city.

“I consider London to be the capital of the world. I travel all over the world and I have never found anywhere to compare to it,” he said.

Source: Financial Times

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