£650m Carphone Warehouse tycoon lands bail-out for opera charity

SEBASTIAN SHAKESPEARE: £650m Carphone Warehouse tycoon lands bail-out for opera charity

Few can match the Midas touch of David Ross, co-founder of Carphone Warehouse who’s amassed a personal fortune of £650 million.

His talent for attracting money has not deserted him for I can disclose that Nevill Holt Opera — which Ross founded and funded at his Leicestershire estate — has just been awarded a £100,000 grant by the Arts Council.

Tory party donor Ross, 55, recently appointed his own 17-year-old schoolboy son, Carl, as Nevill Holt’s patron, as I revealed last month. 

The windfall comes from the Culture Recovery Fund — a stash of taxpayers’ money that the Arts Council is distributing to organisations which have made appeals for financial assistance to help them weather the pandemic.

David Ross, co-founder of Carphone Warehouse who has amassed a personal fortune of £650 million, founded  Nevill Holt Opera on his Leicestershire estate. It has just been awarded a £100,000 grant by the Arts Council

A new 400-seat auditorium was built at Nevill Holt in 2018 with a loan of £6.5 million from the David Ross Foundation.

Ross is also a close chum of Boris Johnson, whose New Year holiday to Mustique with fiancée Carrie Symonds he facilitated.

‘Nevill Holt Opera is an independent charity,’ says a spokesman for Nevill Holt. ‘This grant will enable it to continue its work with thousands of young people across the Midlands and beyond, and to support and entertain our communities and audiences. 

 A new 400-seat auditorium was built at Nevill Holt (pictured) in 2018 with a loan of £6.5 million from the David Ross Foundation

The Royal Opera House reluctantly put David Hockney’s portrait of Sir David Webster – Ross’s predecessor as chairman – up for sale

‘We are grateful for this support, and committed to using it to continue the positive impact for which Nevill Holt Opera is known.’

Ross was made chairman of the Royal Opera House this summer. 

Now that Nevill Holt has been bolstered by taxpayers’ cash, perhaps he will be moved to make the winning bid for David Hockney’s portrait of Sir David Webster — Ross’s predecessor as chairman — which the RoH is reluctantly putting up for auction at Christie’s next week.

The portrait is expected to fetch up to £18 million for the RoH, which has been starved of income due to lockdown.

Princes William and Harry’s old nanny Tiggy Pettifer has knitted two pairs of socks for charity. Not any old socks mind you. These are wading socks suitable for shooting or fishing. The socks will be auctioned online by the Atlantic Salmon Trust, of which Prince Charles is patron. They have already got a starting bid of £1,200. Not to be sniffed at . . .

TV naturalist David Bellamy, whose distinctive rasping voice led to comedian Lenny Henry’s catchphrase ‘gwapple me gwapenuts’, left just more than £307,000 to his four children and one grandchild in his will.

Figures released by the probate office in Brighton reveal that Bellamy, who died last December aged 86, had made a short will in 2013, leaving his entire estate to his wife, Rosemary. But she died in 2018, so his assets are instead shared between his children and grandson.

Eau la la: TV Lily’s parisian plumbing dramas

Sacre bleu! Life imitated art for Lily Collins, star of new TV drama Emily In Paris, which features our heroine showering in her hunky neighbour’s apartment after she runs out of hot water.

‘I had many experiences that were very similar to Emily,’ says Collins, 31, who lived in the French capital for four months during filming.

‘Like I lost hot water in my apartment for two weeks and I had no heating and it was starting to get cold.

Life imitated art for Lily Collins, star of new TV drama Emily In Paris, which features our heroine showering in her hunky neighbour’s apartment after she runs out of hot water (pictured)

‘Like I lost hot water in my apartment for two weeks and I had no heating and it was starting to get cold,’ Collins said of her own time living in Paris

‘I literally thought the directors were playing tricks. I said: “Guys I already have enough empathy for Emily, I don’t need to feel more.”

‘So I ended up showering in the studio. It was pretty funny.

‘Paris is a character itself and I think that translates aesthetically into the show. But also when you go there you never know what you’ll get, and I just love that.’

Quiz whizz Osman shares date secrets

Pointless co-host Richard Osman, who split from jazz singer Sumudu Jayatilaka, is enjoying his new found bachelor status.

‘Being single in your 40s is really great,’ admits Osman, 49. ‘From my perspective, it’s wonderful.

‘It’s probably easier being a single man in your 40s than a single woman. When I talk to my female friends about their dates you think: “That is unbelievable! What, he really…?” And she’ll say: “Well, he’s got a job, so that’s something.” Whereas if you’re a man you can date astronauts who have sell-out stand-up tours. So it’s kind of great. I also try to age-appropriate date.’

Osman, who towers at 6ft 7in, split from 5ft 2in Sumudu after a year. He has two children from a previous long-term relationship. ‘My parents divorced when I was very young so I don’t have that experience of a couple staying together and growing old together.’ 

Anthea Turner confesses to a passion for cemeteries.

‘Since I was a kid I’ve had a fascination for graveyards,’ she says. ‘I don’t find them unhappy places at all, in fact quite the opposite, and always come away with that subliminal reminder in my head of how fleeting and precious life is, to always pull my knickers up and make the best of it.’ Er, amen.

Allegra is a scooter trooper

Being the new No 10 spokeswoman will be child’s play for Allegra Stratton, who starts her £100,000-a-year role next month.

The ex BBC and ITV journalist, who will lead Downing Street’s new daily televised press briefings, was spotted whizzing round on a scooter in North London. ‘I was taking my son to football and it helps me keep up with him on his scooter,’ she tells me.

The mother of two, 39, is married to The Spectator’s political editor James Forsyth.

Scooting to work is probably beyond the call of duty — but it would no doubt endear her to her new boss . . .

Pictured: Newly appointed Press Secretary Allegra Stratton out in her scooter in north London. The ex BBC and ITV journalist will lead Downing Street’s new daily televised press briefings

She plays a fashion-obsessed PR in Ab Fab, but Jennifer Saunders admits she hasn’t bought a handbag for years. ‘It’s a status thing — people who have to have the latest Dior bag or Hermes bag or whatever,’ she says. ‘I’ve never had a handbag and matched it to a pair of shoes.

‘And their nail varnish matches the handbag and the shoes. That’s insane. There are women who are put together. I’ve never been that. They don’t seem to have personalities.’

Rishi’s wife out of pocket over profits 

Chancellor ‘Dishy’ Rishi Sunak has won plaudits for the way he’s managed the economy as the nation grapples with the pandemic. But the finances of a company controlled by his wife have not fared as well.

New accounts for Akshata Murthy’s Catamaran Ventures Ltd, which Sunak (pictured with his wife) co-ran until he became an MP, show profits fell by £70,000 to £114,784 in 2019.

The fall in profits means no corporation tax was paid in 2019. Akshata, daughter of billionaire N. R. Narayana Murthy, has pumped a loan of £1.74 million into the ‘financial intermediation’ company.

New accounts for Akshata Murthy’s Catamaran Ventures Ltd, which Sunak (pictured with his wife) co-ran until he became an MP, show profits fell by £70,000 to £114,784 in 2019

Duke’s art treasures on show 

The Duke and Duchess of Bedford were forced to relocate from their 17th century home Woburn Abbey after the discovery of asbestos during a refurbishment.

Now the family’s priceless collection of paintings, which have hung in the Abbey’s Bedfordshire dining room since arriving in Britain in the 1730s, will also be leaving.

Some 23 of 24 vast canvases which the 4th Duke commissioned from Canaletto during his Grand Tour of Venice in 1731 will move to the Holburne Museum in Bath for eight months from January next year.

‘The renovations have provided an ideal opportunity for the Duke and Duchess of Bedford generously to share a selection of Woburn’s greatest treasures with a wider audience,’ says Holburne’s director Chris Stephens. ‘It is very exciting.’ Every (asbestos) cloud has a silver lining!      

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