LONDON (Reuters) - Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair stepped into the private sector on Thursday, joining U.S. bank JPMorgan Chase and Co Inc (JPM.N) as a senior adviser to its board and clients.
The bank said Blair, who is working as a Middle East peace envoy for the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States, would advise its chief executive and senior management team on global politics on a part-time basis.
He would also take part in company events with key clients — with his name and contact seen by some as a major draw.
Blair biographer Anthony Seldon said there would inevitably be allegations he was selling out, but that ultimately his new job was likely to come second to his global political work.
“Maybe this is a harbinger of a new Tony Blair,” he told Reuters. “But he has never struck me as someone who enjoys particularly the trappings of wealth except foreign holidays with his children.”
“I don’t think this will be nearly as important to him as his other priorities such as the inter-faith dialogue work and the Middle East,” he added.
Seldon said Blair had immersed himself in international affairs probably more than any other European politician and was therefore a very high-profile global name for such a job.
“He is about as good as it gets,” he said, contrasting Blair with the U.S. president whom he said was seen as a less lucrative brand once he leaves office. “Most firms would rather have George W. Bush advising their competition.”
Blair said of his new job with JPMorgan: “I look forward to advising them on how they approach the huge political and economic changes that globalization brings.”
London’s Evening Standard newspaper said the role was rumored to be worth 500,000 pounds ($980,000) a year, and contrasted his wealth with the hardship of soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan — both wars begun under Blair — who have struggled for compensation.
JPMorgan refused to comment on Blair’s pay deal.
The Financial Times, which first reported the move on its Web Site, said the job was the first of a series that Blair — who stood down last year after a decade in office — intended to take in the private sector.
Blair is credited with bringing his Labor Party out of years in opposition to win a landslide election in 1997, but his popularity was damaged in Britain by the Iraq war and his staunch support for Bush.
“I have always been interested in commerce and the impact of globalization,” Blair told the Financial Times.
Former prime ministers have often relied on private sector work or lucrative public speaking fees — particularly in the United States — after leaving office, but some analysts were unfazed by Blair’s move.
“When I come to look at my earnings estimates for JPMorgan I certainly wouldn’t be making an adjustment for the Tony Blair factor,” said Richard Staite, banking analyst for Atlantic Equities in London. “It is a pretty marginal issue.”
Additional reporting by Olesya Dmitracova in London and Ritsuko Ando and Tim McLaughlin in New York