How he made his pile: Lord Ashcroft, businessman/politician

How the Tory donor made his millions

Who is he? A controversial politician - deputy chairman of the Conservative party - and successful entrepreneur. Early business successes brought him an estimated £1.1bn, and he has donated millions to the Tories since the early 1980s.

How did he make his millions? At 31, Chichester-born Lord Ashcroft sold a cleaning company he bought with a £15,000 loan five years earlier, then bagged ailing camping-gear maker Hawley Group, using it to snap up other companies. In 1987, he acquired the security and motor auctions group ADT for £635m, selling it in '97 for £2.6bn, pocketing about £154m. He pulled off a similar stunt with British Car Auctions, netting himself £900m on that deal.

The secret of his success? Ruthless deal-making. And keeping friends in high(ish) places: as well as bankrolling the Tories, he allegedly gave the right-wing People's United Party in Belize $1m when it was in opposition. It has since introduced laws financially advantageous to Lord Ashcroft. His tax status remains a mystery.

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