Well, do not be afraid – she’s back.
Last week this has been revealed that Baroness Mone was the “source of reference” between the government and PPE Medpro, a company that won £ 203 million contracts to supply PPE to the NHS via the government’s “high-priority job”, just a month -and- half after the firm was founded in May 2020. (The Government Watchdog, The National Audit Office, said that firms processed via this GDP path were ten times more likely to get contracts than those that came through the regular channel.)
Mone has always denied any involvement with the company. One of its directors, Anthony Page, was the registered secretary for MGM Media – the company that owns her personal brand according to the House of Lords register of financial interests – until he takes up the role. . . the same day that PPE Medpro was launched. Page is also to director of Knox House Trust, part of the Knox Group, a group of companies founded by Mone’s husband, Doug Barrowman – more on Knox in a bit.
When the FT Mone’s representatives asked about her links to PPE Medpro in April, we were told that:
Barones Mone has no involvement with this company in any capacity.
So following the latest revelations on the government’s own website, we asked if Mone stood by this statement. We were told (emphasis ours, to show the subtle change in language):
Baroness Mone is not an investor, director or shareholder who is in any way associated with PPE Medpro. She has never held any role or function in PPE Medpro, nor in the process by which contracts were awarded to PPE Medpro. Baroness Mone had no knowledge of any ‘high priority job’, and played no role in or had any knowledge that PPE Medpro was placed in such a job.
Let’s now look at what “no involvement with this company in any capacity” actually means. . .
“Glow of anger”
On February 10 this year, when Britain’s Covid deaths were nearing their all – time high, Jacqui Rock, chief commercial officer of the government’s testing and tracking program, sent a rather stressful email to colleagues, which FT Alphaville saw, with the subject line “RE: SENSITIVE: LFDs and the new variants”:
We have a problem here.
Baroness Mone goes to Michael Gove and Matt Hancock today because she is outraged by the way she allegedly treated Medpro [sic] in the case.
A Test and Detective official described it as “Baroness Mone lobbying on behalf of Medpro” and told us “it did not end me”.
Baroness Mone told the FT that no meeting with government ministers had taken place (although we were not told if she requested one). It should be noted that this is a woman who has very good links with the top buyers in the Tory party. You may remember that she secured A zoom call with the chancellor himself, our dishy Rishi Sunak, earlier this year. And former Prime Minister David Cameron made her his “entrepreneurship tsar” before elevating herself to a permanent seat in Britain’s upper house of parliament. (Say what you like about Cameron, but you can not fault his excellent taste in business.)
The email continues:
It seems like no one told them they failed anything and they are, in her words, sent off with another round of testing.
Rock told her colleagues that she would raise the issue at the “8.30 exco meeting”, adding “it will explode today”.
When we asked Mone’s representatives about the email, we were told:
With regard to testing and tracking, she advocated to the government that all companies tendering for UK contracts be treated fairly and that a transparent process be accepted by DHSC in the award of contracts.
Early in the new year, the UK government had only 3 approved suppliers of lateral flow test kits. She considers this unsatisfactory, as an important part of the Pandemic Exit Strategy was to test the British population extensively. The independent process for accreditation of new test kits took too long and there were bottlenecks in the system for new suppliers.
This is the thing about Baroness Mone. In spite of spoke only a total of five times in the House of Lords since she was made a lifelong counterpart in 2015, she really cares about this country.
We were also told by email (emphasis ours; exclamation mark theirs):
Baroness Mone is asked daily for her advice from the general public to help businesses, charities and governments around the world. Her 25 years of wealth of knowledge are invaluable, especially when it comes to global manufacturing, branding, retail, etc. That’s why she’s where she is!
Baroness Mone gave the names of numerous manufacturing companies in the appropriate channels following a request by the British government, as I said she does this on a daily basis.
Priceless is definitely one way to put it – how can one price on the value of Michelle Mone, founder of Ultimo Bras and the failed EQUI Capital (remember?), to help the government procure medical equipment during a pandemic? One thing you can set a price on, however, is the £ 122 million that the government paid PPE Medpro for surgical gowns. Gowns, as it turns out, that were never actually used, according to a A BBC investigation.
PPE Medpro was quoted by the BBC as saying that it “delivered 100 per cent of the contract in accordance with the terms specified”, and that it supplied the equipment “in full compliance with the agreed contract”.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care told us that “proper due diligence is being carried out for all government contracts” and that the process involves “all contracts complying with robust rules and processes that prevent conflicts of interest”. They added that “ministers have no involvement in deciding who is awarded contracts”.
Companies House records show that PPE Medpro’s registered office address is 16 High Holborn, in London. It is also the registered address for not only Knox House Trust, which we have already mentioned, but also “Michelle Mone Interiors”, and “MMI Global Unlimited”, of which Mone is a shareholder and director, according to Companies House filings.
Another company whose registered office address is in the same building is the flexible office space provider Neospace, which was Baroness Mone speak in the press very excited. Here she selflessly drives the idea that working from home is bad for us, on GB News back in June:
“It’s not fun to work full time from home … It’s an absolute spiritual idea.”
Businesswoman Baroness Mone tells GB News that the proposal that civil servants should work at the office four days a month is “ridiculous”.
What do you think of the idea? 🤔 pic.twitter.com/00j62WE6KP
– GB News (@GBNEWS) 28 June 2021
What seems important to us here is the directors of Neospace, who Mone was happy to say she “introduced” with her husband. According to Companies House records, there are three directors of the company, none of whom are Mone or Barrowman. One is Anthony Page, whom we have already mentioned, and another is a woman named Voirrey Coole. (The third is a man named Anthony Tat who is not relevant here, who’s sorry, because it would have been nice to use that of good.)
PPE Medpro has only two directors: Page, as we already mentioned, and yes, you guessed it, Coole. We asked Mone’s people about this curious link and were told:
Anthony Page and Voirrey Coole are directors of many companies, in fact hundreds, most of which are not associated with Baroness Mone and Mr Barrowman. This is the nature of their business that CSP provides and taking numerous directorships is part of their day to day work. Defining a CSP: Corporate Service Provider (CSP) is a professional firm that helps businesses with their corporate submissions. They can also provide accounting, tax and legal advice and other services related to regulatory compliance.
Voirrey and Page do appear to be directors of many companies, that’s true. Another of them is called PPE Group, a company registered in the Isle of Man (where Barrowman and Mone happen to live). However, PPE Group has not always been called that. In another strange event, the company changed its name the next day after PPE Medpro was taken up, on 13 May 2020, according to the Isle of Man Companies Registry.
Before that, PPE Group was called APV 24. APV consists of the initials of Aston Property Ventures which according to its website is part of Barrowman’s Knox Group. Aston Property Ventures was also behind the luxury tower in Dubai that will sell apartments for bitcoin that Mone and Barrowman launched in 2017.
The Isle of Man register also shows that PPE Group’s “registered agent” is Knox House Trust. Its annual return for 2017, when it was named APV 24, shows one of its directors was a certain. . . Douglas Barrowman.
On 11 May 2020 (the day before the PPE Medpro already mentioned was incorporated into the UK), another company called PPE Medpro was incorporated into the Isle of Man. On the same day, another company, PPE Medical Protection, was also registered there. Both companies used the same address, in the Isle of Man, as PPE Group.
Mone’s representatives declined to comment on any of these companies.
We called PPE Medpro and came across someone who said they were on “reception” at the company’s offices in Great Portland Street, but that no one was available. His office address, 85 Great Portland Street, also happens to be an address you can buy as a “virtual office address” at “The London office”. We were told that we could not be given an email address of a press contact, but we would rather be called back. We are still waiting for the call.
Mone’s people gave us that kind of warning we got used to in our dealings with her:
We have sent your email to our media lawyer who will closely monitor what you publish. Be sure to consult your editor.
It was once remarked by Mone’s people that “you got a little obsessed with Lady Mone”, but honestly we dropped the ball a little recently. We can only say that we are glad that our fascination has been rekindled – may it grip us for a long time to come.
Rishi Sunak’s quick walk to talk shows – FT Alphaville
The Baroness, the ICO fiasco, and Steve Wozniak enter – FT Alphaville
Barones Mone whips business sanctuary for £ 15,000 – FT Alphaville
It’s really happening … Woz joins Baroness Mone’s blockchain company – FT Alphaville
Is Baroness Mone’s true idol Steve Wozniak or Sylvester Stallone? – FT Alphaville
Dubai or bust for Baroness Bitcoin – FT Alphaville