Burj Al Arab, Dubai, 6 July 2010. It has been only a few days since Former Prime Minister Tony Blair was awarded The Liberty Medal, from the National Constitution Center, and the $100,000 prize given to those whose "actions represent the founding principles of the United States". Now, in a conference room of the 7 star Burj Al Arab Hotel with views over the Arabian Sea, the tanned and relaxed Tony Blair launched the Tony Blair Wealth Foundation.
Former British Prime Minister Blair gave a customary assured presentation and stated that the aim of his foundation is to "make him the richest man on Earth". Mr Blair gave particular thanks to Gordon (Gordon Brown, former Chancellor of the Exchequer who succeeded Tony Blair as PM) for giving him the idea for this new venture. Gordon, he said, had demonstrated that if you want to spend billions of pounds then it is best to have the money in your possession first rather than borrow it and face crippling interest payments. Mr Blair said that prior to the official launch of The Tony Blair Wealth Foundation he had already tested his business model by accepting numerous prizes and substantial donations and on current projections he had every confidence in the success of his new venture and expected "to be a billionaire by Christmas, sorry Eid." He said that the website had just gone live and was accepting donations by credit card although he was "still, obviously, allowing personal approaches from high net worth individuals".
Yousri Fouda from Al-Jazeera, the Arabic satellite television station asked the former prime minister how this aim of acquiring vast wealth sat with the aims of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation? Mr Blair replied that "The aims of the two foundations are entirely compatible. What we are looking to do is develop a paradigm shift in wealth creation. We will implement a robust process, which at the end of the day will bring synergies and align the tactical requirements and strategic values of both foundations".
Mr Blair then accepted a question from Ashfaq Ahmad, chief reporter Gulf News, who congratulated Mr Blair on receiving the Liberty medal and said that in the Arab world there is a special word - "eghtina", for what Mr Blair is doing. This remark drew the attention of the Arabic speakers in the room but left the rest of us in the dark. Before Mr Ahmad could elaborate Mr Blair said "shukran" and then took a question from Kay Burley of Sky News.
Kay Burley asked Mr Blair what he intended to do with all his wealth. Mr Blair thanked Ms Burley for an interesting question and replied that one aim was "to get involved in the media, much like Silvio Berlusconi", the Italian Prime Minister. Mr Blair continued by saying that he thought "Mr Berlusconi had made a tactical error by controlling the media while serving as Prime Minister compared to my plans to control erm, be involved in the media after leaving office, because the past is such an uncertain place don'tcha know. Gosh Kay, ha ha, maybe you could come and work for me" .
Mr Blair then invited everybody to have lunch in the hotel's Al Mahara ("Oyster") restaurant which features a large seawater aquarium. Mr Blair apologised for not joining everybody for lunch as he was going jet-skiing with Euan, although not, ha ha, in the aquarium.