New Year Honours 2012: Knighthood for Tory donor Paul Ruddock and CBE for jailed tycoon Gerald Ronson

  • Ex-convict Gerald Ronson and Conservative Party supporter Paul Ruddock both honoured
  • David Cameron accused of being ‘out of touch’ with decent British people
  • Government source says Prime Minister has no personal involvement in deciding who receives honours
  • Founder of online gambling company bet365 also appointed OBE

David Wilkes and Jason Groves

Last updated at 2:51 PM on 31st December 2011

A disgraced property tycoon and a hedge fund trader who cashed in on the credit crunch are both in the New Year Honours list.

Ex-convict Gerald Ronson – the great survivor of the Guinness share-trading scandal – is made a CBE. And there is a knighthood for Tory donor Paul Ruddock, who has given more than £500,000 to party coffers since 2003.

His firm, Lansdowne Partners, made a staggering £100million from the financial crash by betting that the price of Northern Rock shares would fall and also made millions in a matter of days by predicting the likely slide of other banking shares.

Controversial: Ex-convict Gerald Ronson, the great survivor of the Guinness share-trading scandal, is appointed CBE. He is pictured here with his wife Gail

Honoured: Tory donor Paul Ruddock, who has given more than £500,000 to the party since 2003, is to be knighted

Controversial: Ex-convict Gerald Ronson, pictured left with wife Gail, is appointed CBE while Tory donor Paul Ruddock, right, is to be knighted

The honours sparked a cross-party war of words, with Labour accusing
David Cameron of cronyism, but Downing Street insisting that the Prime
Minister had nothing to do with the decisions.

Michael Dugher, Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Office Minister, said: ‘David
Cameron promised to clean up politics, but in office he has shown he is
utterly out of touch with decent British people. He is giving a
knighthood to Paul Ruddock, who made millions from the collapse of
Northern Rock and has given over £500,000 to the Tories.

‘This tells you everything you need to know about the Tories’
priorities. When millions of families are struggling to get by, it’s the
Tories’ friends in the City who get the rewards.’

A member of the Treasury Select Committee, John Mann, described the
knighthood for Mr Ruddock as a ‘disgrace’. The Labour MP for Bassetlaw
said: ‘The country is sick to death of bankers getting knighthoods from
successive governments.

‘It is extraordinary that when there are so many hard working people who
have done a lot for this country, it is people who have caused us so
many problems that are getting awarded. Small business owners who went
under and people who lost their jobs when Northern Rock failed will be
extremely angry.’

A Government source stressed that the Prime Minister has no personal
involvement in deciding who receives honours and dismissed any
suggestion of impropriety. The decision, said the source, was taken by
an independent committee in recognition of Mr Ruddock’s commitment to
the arts.

Donating to a political party is not a bar to an honour but the independent committee is made aware of any donations.

Within Government there was anger at Labour’s decision to try to make
political capital out of the issue, not least because former Capita boss
Rod Aldridge, who has given Labour £1million, is knighted in today’s

Jailed: Gerald Ronson, left, during his time inside Ford Prison is the great survivor of the Guinness share-trading scandal

Jailed: Gerald Ronson, left, during his time inside Ford Prison is the great survivor of the Guinness share-trading scandal

No decision to make: A Government source said that the Prime Minister has no personal involvement in deciding who receives honours

No decision to make: A Government source said that the Prime Minister has no personal involvement in deciding who receives honours

A Government source said: ‘This criticism is pretty rich, coming from a
Labour government that gave Fred Goodwin a knighthood – they should wind
their necks in.’

Others from the business world whose honours might raise eyebrows
include Denise Coates, founder and chief executive of the online
gambling company bet365. She receives the CBE for services to the
community and business.

The daughter of Stoke City FC owner Peter Coates,
she has a £750million fortune and was this year ranked the
eighth-richest woman in the Sunday Times Rich List.

Property tycoon and philanthropist Ronson, 72, who was jailed in 1990
for his part in the Guinness scam, has been honoured for services to
charity. It is rare for a former prisoner to be bestowed with such an

Indeed, one of his co-defendants, the late Jack Lyons, was stripped of
his knighthood after they were convicted along with two other top City
figures. Lyons, who was spared a 30-month term because of his poor
health, was knighted by the 1973 Labour government and had his title
taken away by John Major.

Proud moment: Those people on the New Year Honours list will enjoy a day at Buckingham Palace

Proud moment: Those people on the New Year Honours list will enjoy a day at Buckingham Palace

Ronson founded Heron Group – now Heron
International Plc – when he was 17, brought self-service petrol stations
to the UK in 1960s and was once the 14th-richest person in Britain and
worth £548million.

In 1990 he was, with Lyons, Ernest Saunders and Anthony Parnes,
convicted over Guinness’s £2.7billion takeover of the Scottish drinks
group Distillers.

Awards: Olympics chiefs' early knighthoods

The fraud had the effect of boosting the Guinness share price. As it
rose, the group’s offer to Distillers’ shareholders increased in value,
helping Guinness fend off a bid from rival Argyll and secure the deal.

Ronson was convicted of conspiring to create a false market, false
accounting and one of theft. He was fined £5million and sentenced to a
year, but freed after six months for good behaviour.

He has always protested his innocence, saying he did not knowingly act dishonestly.

A father of four, he is also the uncle of chart-topping musician Mark Ronson.

He has raised more than £100million for, and donated more than
£30million to, charities such as the Community Security Trust, NSPCC,
the Prince’s Trust and Jewish Care.

Asked if Ronson’s conviction had any influence over the decision to
award him a CBE, a Cabinet Office spokesman said every nomination for an
honour was considered on its own merits.

Other former prisoners to be honoured in the past include footballer
Tony Adams, who was jailed for drink-driving in 1990 and made an MBE 14
years later. And Mick Jagger was knighted in 2002, 35 years after being
jailed for possessing drugs. The sentence was reduced on appeal to a
conditional discharge.

Paul Ruddock, 53, becomes a Knight Bachelor for services to the arts in today’s honours list.

During the credit crunch in 2007 and 2008 the activities of ‘short
sellers’ enraged politicians who were trying to shore up plunging bank

Many observers blamed the practice – based on traders selling stock,
allowing the price to fall and then buying it back – for the bailout
funded by taxpayers.

Short-sellers were accused of targeting Halifax owner HBOS in particular before it was rescued by Lloyds and then the taxpayer.

Mr Ruddock has given £551,598.42 to the Tories since 2003. He is one of
the City’s wealthiest men, with a fortune estimated at £280million.

Among his philanthropic work, he is chairman of the Victoria and Albert
Museum, for which he has helped raise more than £120million.

Delighted: Peter Bazalgette, the man who brought Big Brother to UK screens, has been given a knighthood for services to broadcasting

Delighted: Peter Bazalgette, the man who brought Big Brother to UK screens, has been given a knighthood for services to broadcasting

Peter Bazalgette has the dubious distinction of being the man who brought Big Brother – the epitome of downmarket reality TV – to UK screens.

Despite what many will regard as a less than enriching contribution to British life, the media executive has been given a knighthood for services to broadcasting.

The 58-year-old was also credited with being instrumental in the rise of lifestyle and make-over shows, having been behind series such as Ground Force, Changing Rooms and Ready Steady Cook.

Yesterday Baz, as he is known within the TV industry, said the honour was a ‘delightful compliment’.

Bazalgette, great great grandson of civil engineer Sir Joseph Bazalgette, oversaw the launch, and several series, of Big Brother for Endemol as well as shows such as Fame Academy, Restoration and Deal Or No Deal.

While he did not invent the format for Big Brother he was credited with playing a major part in making the show a success.

During his time at the company the reality series was involved in a number of controversies including showing a couple apparently having sex, albeit under the covers, on Teen Big Brother in 2003.

Five years ago, in the ‘celebrity’ version of the show, viewers were treated to the dubious privilege of seeing maverick MP George  Galloway dressed in a cat costume and as a vampire, while more recent participants include Sally Bercow, wife of the Commons Speaker.

One critic has accused Bazalgette of doing more to ‘debase’ TV over the past decade than anyone else.

In recent years he has acted largely as a consultant to the TV industry and for digital media.

He has also written about the business of TV formats, with his book Billion Dollar Game published in 2005.

Bazalgette said he viewed the award as an acknowledgment of the work of independent TV production firms.

After graduating from Cambridge University, Bazalgette joined the BBC’s news trainee scheme,  moving on to become a researcher for That’s Life and then a reporter for Man Alive. Moving behind the cameras, he produced the long-running series Food And Drink before setting up his own company Bazal, later to be absorbed into the Dutch TV giant Endemol.

He went on to become Endemol’s chief creative officer, leaving the company in 2007.

Bazalgette is president of the Royal Television Society, deputy chairman of English National Opera and the National Film and Television School, and has served on the board of Channel 4.

In January this year he was made a non-executive director to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport for his ‘business acumen’ and ‘particular insight into a broad spectrum of media issues’.

Another successful TV executive, Paul Smith, the man behind Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, is made a CBE.

He was also executive producer of the Oscar-winning film Slumdog Millionaire.

Here’s what other readers have said. Why not add your thoughts,
or debate this issue live on our message boards.

The comments below have been moderated in advance.

It is sickening that our Queen dubs these people to be a knight of the realm and no your mayesty “we are not amused”,It would be nice to see some courage from the elder royals as opposed to the mockery you have been coerced into by rewarding corruption.
I remain your obedient servant (for now)

How can creating an on-line gambling company be seen as a service to the community? I must be missing something here. Surely there was a misunderstanding about Big Brother. I think it should have read “for disservices to broadcasting”.
– meangelo, Wonder where these days!, 31/12/2011 10:26
BET 365 are one of the largest employers in Stoke-on-Trent, a very deprived area where jobs are very hard to find. They also do a lot for the community via owning Stoke City FC.

These knighthoods are no different to a sham wedding as they are done for the wrong reasons. It’s time for Cameron to put forward his Christian values about honesty lead by example.


…but we can’t give a knighthood to Ronnie Corbett :o(

Lester Piggot LOST his Knighthood for going to prison, how come these guys are eligible for a gong? Give Lester his back – he paid his dues and did his time!!! Jeffrey Archer didn’t lose his!
The whole system needs an overhaul but they can’t afford to lose the money they get from these megalomaniacs! Anyone brave enough to try to make it illegal for sponsors to get a gong would be thrown out of the party with the dogs set after him!!

They think we are all halfwits.

I feel sorry for those who deserved their honours because they were recommended by communities whom they served, often in a minor role but ready to give their time and effort. This makes the honours list look even more suspicious than ever and Cameron will do nothing about it as he will be looking for a place in the House of Lords.


Make 2012 the year the UK made a commitement to be democrasy: that Her Majesty will be our last monarch; an end to the House of Lords, unelected peers and honours; and the end of the established church!

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