The Peer, Noddy, Bob The Builder & Lassie


Lord Waheed Alli, the first of a new generation of business peers is finding life outside the House of Lords particularly hectic at this moment.

Having just led a successful £110 million management buy-out of Chiron, the British owners of characters such as Noddy and Mr Men, he’s facing at least one, possibly two, takeover bids from rival firms. HIT Entertainment, owners of Bob The Builder, Thomas The Tank and Sooty, has tabled an offer while there are rumours of a counter bid from across the Atlantic by the owners of Lassie and The Lone Ranger.

This world of make believe is the ideal playground for Lord Waheed Ali who was given a life peerage at the age of 34 in 1998, to become the youngest and first openly gay peer in Parliament, and a man that Prime Minister Tony Blair believed could help him reach out to a younger generation.

Waheed Alli was bought up in south London and left school after his O levels.

At the age of 16 he got his first job as a £40-a-week researcher on a magazine called Planned Savings, before going on to work for the late Robert Maxwell’s publishing companies.

In the mid-1980s Alli, living in fashionable Islington, got a job in the City and began earning big money.

But he got bored of investment banking and formed a television production company with Charlie Parsons, a rising star of television.

They teamed up with Bob Geldof in 1992 to form Planet 24 Productions, and through a series of shrewd deals – including their audacious win of Channel Four’s breakfast slot – made a lot more money.

Carlton TV later Plant 24 and after but left after apparently losing out in a management restructure he left to continue his entrepreneurial exploits.

Lord Alli was seen as the antithesis of the stereotypical “establishment” peer – young, Asian and from the world of media and entertainment.

Some commentators initially dismissed his ennoblement as a bad joke, citing his inexperience and insinuating that his position had more to do with his New Labour connections than any political talent.

But he took a prominent role in the battle over the age of consent and the attempted repeal of Section 28, the legislation that bans local authorities from promoting homosexuality (campaigners say it prevents agencies carrying out legitimate health education work).

I sense we’re going to hear much more about Lord Alli – the political activist and entrepreneur.

Thanks for reading Big Business.

David Davis


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