Is it worth transferring £30k stakeholder pension

Stakeholder pensions are a form of simple personal pension which sees you save money into a pot - topped up by tax relief - which is handled by a pensions provider who invests it on your behalf.

Schemes must meet minimum government requirements, with management charges capped at 1.5 per cent and no charge levied if you transfer to another stakeholder pension provider.

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There are a few notable differences between the two pensions: Standard Life offers 30 investment funds to choose from, along with five 'lifestyle options' in which money is automatically invested into funds based on your risk profile.

Scottish Widows meanwhile offers 35 investment funds and six lifestyle profiles.

While both charge a 1 per cent annual management charge, 0.5 per cent below the cap, Standard Life reduces this charge by 0.1 per cent over a year for funds over £25,000 (which yours is) and 0.2 per cent for those over £50,000.

Chartered financial planner Allan Maxwell and David Smith, of BestInvest, identified several things to look out for when transferring pensions.

L

My new flat is damaged and filthy! How can I get my landlord to fix the problems?

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Isr the landlord required to fix these problems and what is the best way to approach the issue? EW

Nasty surprise: Many renters are dismayed to find problems in their new home

Andrew Davidson, a landlord and tenant solicitor on the Contact Law solicitor network, says: Landlords are obliged to ensure that there are no issues with the structure, exterior, electrical, heating, hot water or sanitary conditions.

Unless otherwise stated in your lease, as the tenant you are responsible for minor non-essential repairs and cosmetic issues. You also have an obligation to keep the property in good repair, not counting ordinary wear-and-tear.

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In your case, to begin with you should make a list of the defects to the property and decide which ones you think come under the landlord’s obligations. This is somewhat subjective, but as a general rule, if something is dangerous or unhealthy then the landlord will have to fix it.

Ideally, take pictures of the defects and send them along with the list to your landlord, politely requesting they be dealt with. At the very least, taking photos of the issues at the beginning of the tenancy puts you in a strong position, should there be any deposit disagreements at the end of your contract.

If your landlord does not respond then you may want to carry out the repairs yourself and deduct the cost from your rent. If you do this, you must notify the landlord of your intentions and give them every opportunity to resolve the matter themselves.

Keep them informed of any quotes you obtain and ask them to refund the cost to you before you start making deductions. Be aware that the law is very clear that you do not have a right to withhold rent, even if the landlord is not meeting their obligations and you can be evicted if you do so.

Even if you cannot get your landlord to agree to the repairs (or maybe even to simply respond), then taking photos of the issues at the beginning of the tenancy puts you in a strong position should there be any deposit disagreements at the end of your contract.

As a final resort, you may ask a court to order your landlord to make repairs.

Jim Lougheed, of the Residential Landlords’ Association, adds: When a prospective tenant views a property he/she signs the tenancy agreement and agrees to take up residence in the property 'as seen'.

If it was possibly to turn the clock back before you moved in,  you should have either insisted on these repairs being remedied before moving in or sought a written undertaking from the letting agent and/or landlord that they would be dealt within a certain timescale after moving in. Fourteen days would be reasonable for such repairs.

However, this landlord cannot ignore his responsibilities, he is obliged to provide a safe, healthy and decent standard of accommodation for his tenant. He is clearly failing to do that.

How do I make sure a second-hand car hasn't been stolen or written off?

Linda McKay, of This is Money, replies: One in three cars has a hidden history, according to vehicle checkers HPI.

That means buying a second hand car can be gamble, as many unsuspecting people have been caught out by unscrupulous sellers who fail to declare finance or accident histories.

But you need not find yourself out of pocket and at risk on the road. I asked our experts for advice on your behalf.

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Gavin Hill-Smith, of the AA, replies: When you're looking for a second-hand car, dealers are generally the safest route. You'll get the maximum legal protection with the least risk.

 

Buying privately can save you some money upfront, but you won't be protected legally if the car doesn't come up to scratch. It's up to you to ask the right questions and have the car thoroughly inspected.

Your reader should invest in a vehicle history check as background investigations identify nearly 30 stolen vehicles a day.

The last thing the purchaser needs is to hand over cash only later to discover the vehicle has been reported stolen or written off by an insurance company after having been involved in a smash.

Some devious sellers may even resort to ‘cloning’, where the car has been stolen and its original identity hidden.

A history check should tell you if the vehicle has been stolen, has a mileage discrepancy, has been written off by an insurer; has had a plate change which could indicate a dodgy past or if it is subject to outstanding finance.

Any of the above could leave you with either a dangerous vehicle or no car at all.

In the first instance you should check the car documents and verify that the vehicle registration details (V5) and the 17 digit Vehicle Identification Number found on the chassis match that held with information at DVLA.

You have more rights under consumer law if you're buying from a dealer but it's still best to try to go on reputation or personal recommendation.

Owner's clubs and forum sites can be a good source of hints and tips as well as helping you find recommended dealers if you're looking for something specific.

 

Be wary of anything that seems like a real bargain or has a very low mileage for its age. There are bargains to be had but in general, if a deal looks too good to be true then it most likely is.

When looking over the car, if you’re not confident about what to check, try to take someone experienced with you. You could also consider an inspection of the car (the AA offers a full vehicle inspection).

Also, don't forget that there are always other vehicles out there so don't feel pressured to buy – if in any doubt, walk away.

The AA has comprehensive car buying advice on its website.

Linda McKay adds: Prices for car history checks vary and companies can be found online that charge a minimal sum to do them.

You can check a vehicle MOT for free at gov.uk.

Or for more extensive checks including an inspection are available from the larger motoring organisations such as the AA, RAC or HPI. 

Alternatively, if you have a local garage that you trust, you could ask them if they will get one of their mechanics to check the car over for you for a fee.

You should always history check a second hand car, but an inspection could save you a whole lot more in heartache.

I have the wrong tax code and the taxman keeps raiding my pay

I'm working at McDonalds, but the tax code that I have been allocated is BR, which causes a huge deduction on my paycheck.

I read online that this code is used for someone who has more than one job, but I only have one. Is that tax code correct for me and, if not, what can I do to change it? JR

McDonalds: Employee believes he may have been tax too much by HMRC. How to check your tax code.

Patrick O'Brien, of HMRC, adds: The code 'BR', is used when all income is taxed at the basic rate - currently 20 per cent, most commonly used for a second job or pension.

You should contact HMRC as soon as possible on 0845 300 0627 so we can correct your code and get any tax they have overpaid back to you.

Any overpaid tax for 2012/13 tax year will be repaid as part of our annual end of year reconciliation process. Please visit the HMRC site for a list of tax codes and what they mean.

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Lyndsey Beckett, of Ilyas Patel Accountants, says: A tax code is used by HMRC to ensure that employees are paying the correct amount of tax on their employment income.

The default tax code for 2013-2014 is 944L which allows an individual to earn £9,440 tax free. This allowance is spread evenly over the year so you will still get taxed each month if you earn over £786 in that month.

A tax code may change for a number of reasons. For example, an individual has previously underpaid tax, there are allowable expenses against their employment income, they receive taxable benefits (car, medical cover etc.), as well as many other reasons.

If you are ever unsure that you are on the correct code, you should contact HMRC immediately or seek advice from your accountant.

The BR code as you rightly point out is usually used for someone who has more than one job. This code means that the individual receives no tax free income from that employment.

You have perhaps been assigned a BR tax code if you are new in your job, as the BR tax code is sometimes used by an employer when they do not yet know the tax position of a new employee.

To avoid this, individuals should always ensure they give their P45 from their most recent employment to their new employer as soon as possible. The P45 will show the employer what tax code they should be using for the new employee. If this is not possible, the new employee should be asked to complete a P46. This will allow the employer to put them on the most suitable tax code until they are issued the correct one by HMRC.

If an individual has been put on an incorrect tax code and this is subsequently changed, they will get the refund back automatically through their wages unless it did not get amended before the end of the tax year. In this case you may need to go directly to HMRC to get your refund.

If you have been on tax code BR for a while, then you should contact HMRC as you may be due a refund.

Amy Andrew, of This is Money, adds: It is important that you know how to check and challenge your tax code.

Those most at risk of getting the wrong tax code are those with benefits from their employer such as cars or medical insurances, as these benefits are potentially being taxed twice, or if you have changed jobs recently.

Use This is Money's guide to find out how to decode your code and read the HMRC charter on what it should do to help if things go wrong.

I want to raise money to expand my business. Where should I go for the cash?

Danny Cox, of investment specialist Hargreaves Lansdown, says: Your bank would normally be your first port of call since it will be more familiar with your business, the person running it and your current cash flow position. 

To extend lending or overdrafts they may decide to use the house in Italy as security, although using an overseas property is unlikely. An alternative would be to take a mortgage on the Italy property.

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Another would be to consider peer to peer lenders such as Funding Circle, where a collective number of private investors might lend the money they need.

 

A business plan setting out how much money is required, what it will be used for and the anticipated repayment timescale will help with any loan application.

This doesn’t have to be pages and pages, but should be clearly thought out and articulated

Michael Horseman, of financial consultants Cockburn Lucas, adds:

If you are looking for finance, a couple of starters might be:

1. Outside investors (friends and family as loans or equity)2. Investor with specific knowledge for equity return3. Bank or other lending institution4. Venture capital, enterprise scheme or Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme.

You need a business plan and clear idea what you want to do with the money, as well as an idea of investor returns and exit opportunities, for example three or five years, plus what they get in return.

This could be the percentage of profits or percentage interest on a loan over a time period.

Can I take my late wife's unused IHT allowance?

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P.H.replies: The inheritance tax nil rate band for tax year 1996-97 was £200,000. The unused proportion (13/200ths) can be transferred to you at the rate applying on your own death.

The nil rate band is now fixed at £325,000 until April 2018, so if you died before then the allowance would be increased by £21,125 – 13/200ths x £325,000.

To claim this additional allowance, the executor of your will would need copies of your wife’s will (and any deed of variation), the IHT return for her estate, details of any jointly owned assets that passed to you or others on her death and any gifts she made in the seven years before her death.

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Pension confusion

K.P.writes: I was receiving pension credit but the payment stopped after I inherited some money.  I cannot make sense of the sums.

The Government says my personal savings should be producing £180 a week but they only give me £58.60. Can you explain the difference?

P.G.replies: Under the rules for pension credit, your first £10,000 of savings – whether inherited or not – is ignored.

After this, the assumption is that you receive a weekly income of £1 for every £500 of savings above £10,000. This assumed income is then deducted from any benefits paid to you and, if it is large enough, no benefits are paid at all.

To put this into context, an income of £52 a year from £500 equates to a return of 10.4 per cent after any tax – far more than you can actually achieve in the current climate. The reality is that you have to dip into your capital to produce this sort of income, running down your savings.

Interest on our golf club account is well below par

I.N.writes: I am a trustee of my golf club’s fundraising committee. We have more than £20,000 banked towards centenary celebrations but this is only earning 0.35 per cent. What are the best options for club and society savings?

A.B.replies: The rates on business and charity accounts, including clubs and associations, are often worse than those for personal accounts.

But Melton Mowbray Building Society has a Business Easy Savings account offering 1.20 per cent. Cambridge & Counties Bank pays 1.75 per cent for its 30 Day Notice Account, 1.95 per cent for its 95 Day Notice Account and 2.20 per cent for its 1 Year Fixed Rate Business Bond.

Living abroad has wiped out our credit history, what can we do?

My partner and I have lived abroad for the past 11 years. We have just sold our property and we now want to return home to the UK, where we lived for more than 40 years before moving away.

We are looking at getting a mortgage, but it would appear that no financial institution will consider us because they say they are unable to obtain a credit check on us.

We both have government pensions that give us enough income to cover any mortgage repayments and, while we lived abroad, we used our UK bank and credit cards. As we have no debts we find it very strange that we can't get a mortgage.

How long does it take to build up enough information to obtain a credit check so that we can get the ball rolling and get ourselves a mortgage?

Returning home: How can you build up a positive credit history while living abroad.

  More... How to improve and protect your credit rating How to get out of debt: Your ten-step plan to getting your finances back under control LETTER TEMPLATE: Credit report errors Free Trial: Could you benefit from checking your credit report?

James Jones, of Experian, replies: When a lender reviews your credit report they are essentially looking for information to help them check three things: 

1 Your identity, 2 Your past borrowing record, 3 Your current commitments.

The way things stand you are likely to have a blank credit record because UK banks won’t be able to run a credit check on a non-UK address for a number of reasons. For credit applications a blank credit record is a proverbial spanner in the works.

 

So your first aim should be to re-establish a credit record at a UK address as quickly as possible and certainly before you submit a mortgage application.

Whether you rent somewhere or use a family address, it doesn’t really matter. You should get your names onto the electoral roll there and provide your existing bank and credit card companies with the new address.

Within a few months you should have a decent foundation for credit checks. I suggest you then obtain a copy of your credit report and work with a good mortgage broker to source a competitive mortgage deal, ideally with a lender that’s unlikely to be perturbed by your recent spell abroad.

If you want to monitor your UK credit report while it’s coming together, a service like CreditExpert might be a good option. This would also give you a credit report score, whenever you log in, to help you track your progress.

Emma Gunn, of This is Money, adds: There are three main credit referencing agencies used by lenders to check your credit rating, Equifax, Experian or CreditCall.

These agencies use a range of information, from the electoral roll to County Court Judgements (CCJs), to compile background checks on your financial situation, which lenders can then use to see if you meet their criteria.

Looking up your credit rating can be helpful in many situations, but remember that although  checking your history will not affect your actual credit score it does leave a footprint on your file.

This is Money has partnered with Experian to offer those that would like to check their history a 30 day free trial.

How can I clear CCJs if debt collectors have gone missing?

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When I eventually found out about the CCJs, I contacted the debt agency acting on the behalf of the lenders to offer a settlement so I could clear my credit file.

Late last year the debt agency contacted me saying that the original debt collection office dealing with my case in Liverpool had closed and the operation had been transferred to Ireland. They suggested I try to make contact with the respective banks directly.

I worry that I will just hit a dead end, but I really want to clear these entries off my file - do you have any advice?

Trouble locating your lenders? A credit check could point you in the right direction

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Linda McKay, of This is Money, replies: We are all at the mercy of our credit file and the window it gives to prospective lenders or insurers on your financial situation.

Any missed payments for insurance, mortgages or even your phone can affect your credit rating and this in turns affects any future ability to gain credit.

I asked our experts at one of the leading credit referencing agencies for guidance.

James Jones, of Experian, replies: If you have two CCJs from debts owed to a couple of banks in 2008, then it’s highly likely that your credit report will also include a default for each of these debts.

Credit account defaults and court judgments both stay on your credit report for six years, regardless of repayment. While the effect on your credit rating is likely to diminish with age – and these entries will be about five years old now – some lenders are likely to insist on seeing them fully repaid (‘satisfied’) before offering you further credit.

Hopefully we [or other credit agencies] can help you with this. If you get your credit report from Experian and then get back in touch, we can give you the precise contact details for the relevant offices of the lenders or collectors currently responsible for these specific accounts.

This should enable you to get in touch with them, sort out a repayment plan for these debts and arrange for your credit report to be updated – both in relation to the defaults and the CCJs.

D

My husband died three years ago, why don't I get any of his annuity payments?

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I really would like to know where my husband's money has gone. He was quite astute regarding investments. J.D. Lake District.

Nasty shock: Many spouses stand to receive nothing from their partner's annuity when they die because they haven't chosen a joint life product.

Adam Uren, of This is Money, says: It seems that you have fallen victim to what has been a stain on the pensions industry for years, and that is only just now being addressed.

For years pension holders have defaulted into their pension provider's standard annuity offerings, with many not realising that they need to shop around to find the best deals and, most importantly, the right annuity for them.

Now, I can't speculate on what process your husband went through when he bought his annuity, but Prudential has confirmed that he took out a single life annuity which included a tax-free lump sum of £11,964 in 2002.

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Single life annuities pay a higher level of income than joint life annuities, but payouts stop when the annuitant dies. Had he taken out a joint life annuity, you would have continued to receive some form of an income from the annuity after his death.

While I realise this will provide you with little solace, a new code of conduct for annuity providers came into force on March 1 this year in which insurers have to take steps to actively encourage their pension customers to seek financial advice so they can shop around for the best deal before they take out their annuity.

Not only would seeking advice ensure fewer spouses are left with nothing upon their partner's death, it would also increase their chances of getting a boosted income, as annuity rates vary by as much as 25 per cent between providers.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) code is also designed so that people with health or lifestyle problems can get bigger payouts, by as much as 40 per cent, through an enhanced annuity.

Thomson won't pay out over four hour flight delay compensation

I am hoping you can help us with a claim for a delayed flight on 13th of February 2013 to Cancun Mexico.

My wife and I booked the holiday through Thomson flying from Gatwick at 9.15am. We live in South Wales, a 4 hour drive from Gatwick, and therefore travelled through the night to check-in at 07.15am.

Boarding was delayed and we were told there would be a hold up because of technical problems - a hydraulic leak. We eventually boarded the plane at midday but were then further delayed by 1 hour 30 minutes while a seat was repaired. 

Compensation plea: Passengers delayed at Manchester airport at Thomson check-in desk.

They said these delays were beyond their control and we were offered free Premium films on board to compensate for our delay.

In total we were delayed over 4 hours. So instead of arriving at our hotel mid-afternoon we arrived at 7 in the evening very tired and went straight to bed losing the first night of our holiday.

I believe that under Regulation (EC) 261/2004 we are entitled to compensation of £508 each. That is the rate for a flight over 3,500km and a delay of over 4 hours.

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I sent Thomson a claim a week after we returned and received a reply a couple of months later. 

 

The reply basically states that the fault was beyond their control and that they would not be awarding any compensation. I have attached a copy of their reply.

I do not believe in the compensation culture and have never claimed for anything in my life but we paid a lot of money for the holiday and have been extremely disappointed in Thomson's response to the delay, both at the time and their letter today.

Their response looks to be a totally standard reply to a claim and aimed at discouraging any further action.

We would be very grateful if you could please investigate this further for us. 

C.W, via email.Tara Evans, from This is Money, replies: On paper, this sounds easy. Your flight was delayed and a ruling in the European Court of Justice last October stated that such delays, even those caused by technical faults, merit compensation. 

You can read more about this ruling and how to claim compensation via our guide.

In practice, despite this ruling, some airlines are still refusing to pay out.

I spoke to Thomson press team on your behalf to highlight the court ruling and see if they would change their minds regarding your compensation. Unfortunately they would not budge.

A spokesman said: ‘Thomson Airways operates a fair and thorough process to deal with EU Delay Claims in line with the regulation. The law in this area is complex and many situations will not result in an entitlement to compensation. 

'The clause "extraordinary circumstances" does encompass a number of eventualities, including some technical issues with the aircraft.

'We’d like to reassure customers that we are committed to maintaining an excellent on-time performance across our flying programme, and we work hard to maintain the title of most on-time charter airline.’

I don’t really understand this response. The law states that if the delay is a fault of the airline then the customer deserves compensation. It was surely Thomson's responsibility to ensure it had functioning aircraft. That seems simple to me.

I asked Thomson to explain further but they declined. 

Airlines are still able to deny payouts for ‘extraordinary circumstance’, for example if there is bad weather or strikes, but Thomson are using this as an excuse for a technical fault.

You can challenge this as the regulation gives no definition of exactly what extraordinary circumstances are, but does give some examples. 

It says: 'As under the Montreal Convention, obligations on operating air carriers should be limited or excluded in cases where an event has been caused by extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken.

Such circumstances may, in particular, occur in cases of political instability, meteorological conditions incompatible with the operation of the flight concerned, security risks, unexpected flight safety shortcomings and strikes that affect the operation of an operating air carrier.'

The crucial part of this is that it says 'which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken'.

This means that you could challenge the technical fault argument as Thomson should have a reasonable expectation that things will go wrong and they should have contingency plans in place.

The next thing you should do is contact the Civil Aviation Authority (passengercomplaints@caa.co.uk or 0207 453 6888) and to see if it agrees that you are entitled to compensation.

If they do, it won't be binding but it might be enough to put pressure on them to pay up.

Thomson won't pay out over four hour flight delay compensation

I am hoping you can help us with a claim for a delayed flight on 13th of February 2013 to Cancun Mexico.

My wife and I booked the holiday through Thomson flying from Gatwick at 9.15am. We live in South Wales, a 4 hour drive from Gatwick, and therefore travelled through the night to check-in at 07.15am.

Boarding was delayed and we were told there would be a hold up because of technical problems - a hydraulic leak. We eventually boarded the plane at midday but were then further delayed by 1 hour 30 minutes while a seat was repaired. 

Compensation plea: Passengers delayed at Manchester airport at Thomson check-in desk.

They said these delays were beyond their control and we were offered free Premium films on board to compensate for our delay.

In total we were delayed over 4 hours. So instead of arriving at our hotel mid-afternoon we arrived at 7 in the evening very tired and went straight to bed losing the first night of our holiday.

I believe that under Regulation (EC) 261/2004 we are entitled to compensation of £508 each. That is the rate for a flight over 3,500km and a delay of over 4 hours.

  More... Why a three-hour flight delay could now get you £500: How to claim compensation after couple's landmark court victory Going on holiday? Best debit and credit cards to help you avoid overseas fees Has your flight got cheaper after you bought it? How to get your airline to pay YOU the difference Can you get a better travel insurance deal? Find out here

I sent Thomson a claim a week after we returned and received a reply a couple of months later. 

 

The reply basically states that the fault was beyond their control and that they would not be awarding any compensation. I have attached a copy of their reply.

I do not believe in the compensation culture and have never claimed for anything in my life but we paid a lot of money for the holiday and have been extremely disappointed in Thomson's response to the delay, both at the time and their letter today.

Their response looks to be a totally standard reply to a claim and aimed at discouraging any further action.

We would be very grateful if you could please investigate this further for us. 

C.W, via email.Tara Evans, from This is Money, replies: On paper, this sounds easy. Your flight was delayed and a ruling in the European Court of Justice last October stated that such delays, even those caused by technical faults, merit compensation. 

You can read more about this ruling and how to claim compensation via our guide.

In practice, despite this ruling, some airlines are still refusing to pay out.

I spoke to Thomson press team on your behalf to highlight the court ruling and see if they would change their minds regarding your compensation. Unfortunately they would not budge.

A spokesman said: ‘Thomson Airways operates a fair and thorough process to deal with EU Delay Claims in line with the regulation. The law in this area is complex and many situations will not result in an entitlement to compensation. 

'The clause "extraordinary circumstances" does encompass a number of eventualities, including some technical issues with the aircraft.

'We’d like to reassure customers that we are committed to maintaining an excellent on-time performance across our flying programme, and we work hard to maintain the title of most on-time charter airline.’

I don’t really understand this response. The law states that if the delay is a fault of the airline then the customer deserves compensation. It was surely Thomson's responsibility to ensure it had functioning aircraft. That seems simple to me.

I asked Thomson to explain further but they declined. 

Airlines are still able to deny payouts for ‘extraordinary circumstance’, for example if there is bad weather or strikes, but Thomson are using this as an excuse for a technical fault.

You can challenge this as the regulation gives no definition of exactly what extraordinary circumstances are, but does give some examples. 

It says: 'As under the Montreal Convention, obligations on operating air carriers should be limited or excluded in cases where an event has been caused by extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken.

Such circumstances may, in particular, occur in cases of political instability, meteorological conditions incompatible with the operation of the flight concerned, security risks, unexpected flight safety shortcomings and strikes that affect the operation of an operating air carrier.'

The crucial part of this is that it says 'which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken'.

This means that you could challenge the technical fault argument as Thomson should have a reasonable expectation that things will go wrong and they should have contingency plans in place.

The next thing you should do is contact the Civil Aviation Authority (passengercomplaints@caa.co.uk or 0207 453 6888) and to see if it agrees that you are entitled to compensation.

If they do, it won't be binding but it might be enough to put pressure on them to pay up.

Asky Tony insurance wouldn't cover Travelodge cancellation after snow

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I booked a one-night stay at the Carlisle Travelodge on the M6.

On the day we were supposed to travel, there were amber weather warnings and we were asked not to drive unless absolutely necessary.

I had taken cancellation insurance so called off the booking and asked for a refund. But I have been informed that I cannot have one unless my journey was a departure by aircraft, sea vessel, coach or  a train delayed for more than six hours.

I feel they are being extremely harsh as the only mode of transport possible would have been a snow plough. Our car was buried in snow on the drive and the conditions were exceptionally bad. Mrs S. M., via email.

Travelodge was mystified when I contacted them because it had not heard from you.

It seems there’s been a bit of a mix-up here. You applied to the insurance company for a refund, rather than directly to Travelodge.

The insurance you had taken was designed to cover delays when traveling by train or plane. The insurer apparently wrote to you for information, but says it has not received a reply.

No matter. Travelodge has refunded you as it refunded hundreds of other people who could not make it to hotels because of the snow this winter. The insurer was also prepared to refund on an ex gratia basis.

Personally, I would never buy the cancellation insurance sold for UK hotel stays and train journeys. It’s just not worth it.

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I helped my relatives get back on their feet, but now I'm being crushed by debt repayments

I am an aged widower in good health with credit card debt as a result of helping two members of my family.

They had a laudable ambition in their 40s to work for useful mature student degrees while cutting down to part-time jobs.

They were very successful and now have far better jobs.

I can service the monthly payments to the credit card companies in excess of the minimum but am finding the rates of interest a disgrace.

How can I come to some sort of deal to pay off this debt? G. P., Suffolk.

My first thought is that you should ask the two family members to help you to repay the debt. They, after all, have benefited from your generosity, so it seems wrong that you should be struggling now as a result.

My second thought is that credit cards are possibly the worst way to handle a long-term loan. I spoke to National Debtline, part of the Money Advice Trust.

If this were a normal debt case they would go through a complete budget sheet with you.

Where someone has money left at the end of each month, they would suggest writing to the creditors, enclosing a copy of the budget, and making an offer of repayment plus requesting that interest and charges are frozen.

However, there appears to be no hardship in your case, as you say you can afford the repayments.

So let’s look at the other options. You could transfer the balances to other credit cards that have long interest-free periods. However, you would incur a transfer fee.

The best option is Halifax Balance Transfer card, which is interest-free for 25 months and has a balance transfer fee of 3 per cent. However, you can only apply via its website, so you would need to ask a family member to help if you do not have access to the internet.

Barclaycard’s Platinum Transfer card gives 26 months  interest free on the transfer, but has a balance transfer fee of 3.5 per cent (though it is currently offering a £10 refund on transfers over £2,000). The number to call is 0800 731 0200.

Alternatively, you could swap to a credit card that promises to keep the interest rate low for life. Sainsbury’s Bank has one charging 7.8 per cent — again you must apply via the internet — while Barclaycard Platinum Simplicity charges 7.9 per cent.

  BEST 0% BALANCE TRANSFERS

Provider Duration* 1 Barclaycard 27 months 2 Natwest/ RBS 26 months 3 Halifax 26 months 4 Virgin 26 months 5 Barclaycard 25 months >> ESSENTIAL GUIDE: How to get the best credit card *Fees apply

Another alternative would be a personal loan. Among those offering low-rate loans are Sainsbury’s Bank, Derbyshire Building Society, Tesco, M&S Bank and Nationwide.

But the rate you were offered would depend on your personal financial circumstances.

If you want to get the debts right out of your life and you own your home, you could consider equity release. But this is a drastic step and should only be considered after taking independent financial and legal advice, and discussing it with your close family. The cost of setting this up and paying the loan would eat into the equity in your home.

Personally, I think balance transfers or asking your family for help are by far the best options to consider.

Those who need help with debts can call National Debtline on 0808 808 4000 or nationaldebtline.co.uk. This service is free and should not be confused with other similarly named organisations that charge for reorganising debts.

Write to Tony Hazell at Ask Tony, Money Mail, Northcliffe House, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT or email asktony@dailymail.co.uk — please include your daytime phone number, postal address and a separate note addressed to the offending organisation giving them permission to talk to Tony Hazell. We regret we cannot reply to individual letters. Please do not send original documents as we cannot take responsibility for them. No legal responsibility can be accepted by the Daily Mail for answers given.


Miquita Oliver faces bankruptcy due to unpaid tax bill

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Former T4 presenter Miquita Oliver is facing bankruptcy after failing to pay a tax bill of more than £174,000, according to a firm of accountants.

A statement from the firm, Baker Tilly confirmed that the HM Revenue and Customs had petitioned for the star to be declared bankrupt due to unpaid taxes on 11 November last year.

The 27-year-old is perhaps best known for presenting Popworld with Simon Amstell in the early part of the last decade. 

Facing bankruptcy: The TV presenter Miquita Oliver was a bridesmaid at childhood friend Lily Allen's wedding last year.

She left the Channel 4 show in 2006 but continued to present on T4 and has also hosted shows on BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra.

She also went on to work on the 4Music channel and was a bridesmaid at the wedding of childhood friend Lily Allen last year.

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Her publicist said: 'We can confirm that Miquita Oliver filed for bankruptcy in November 2011. She has many projects in the pipeline both here and in the US for 2012.'

Baker Tilly’s Geoff Carton-Kelly has been appointed trustee of the TV star’s affairs. He said: 'Investigating and recovering assets for the benefits of creditors is the primary role of the Trustee in Bankruptcy. At this stage it is too early to comment on the level of Miss Oliver’s assets and the likely return to creditors.'

Oliver isn't the only celebrity to experience money troubles, showing how high earnings do not always mean lasting wealth.

In November last year, former popstar and reality TV star Kerry Katona finally cleared her debts after being declared bankrupt in 2008.

She was able to settle her debts, which once stood at £417,000 after receiving a £350,000 fee for appearing on celebrity Big Brother.

Katona was declared bankrupt despite reportedly earning £75,000 a year as the face of supermarket chain Iceland and £400,000 a year as a columnist for OK! Magazine.

In August 2009, Men Behaving Badly star Neil Morrissey announced that he would be not filing for bankruptcy after he lost £2.5million after investing in a string of hotels and pubs. Instead, Morrissey took an IVA (Individual Voluntary Arrangement) which meant he would pay his creditors back.

He told the News of the World: 'People advise you to take the easy route - it'll only last a year and you'll be back up and running. But I just thought there are too many good people who've lost their money on these deals, and I wanted to repay them as much as I possibly could. I feel morally obliged. Afterwards I'll feel better about myself.

Duchess of York, Sarah 'Fergie' Ferguson was reportedly saved from the brink of bankruptcy after racking up debts of nearly £5million. She said last year that her former husband Prince Andrew has helped her sort out her finances in an interview with Hello! Magazine in July last year.

What does bankruptcy mean?

Bankruptcy means that your assets are sold and the money is used to pay your creditors as much as possible.

If you are made bankrupt you will not be able to:

Use your bank or building society account or credit card [You get a basic bank account instead]Obtain credit for over £500Trade in any business under any other name Promote, form or manage a limited company Be the trustee of a charity or pension fun. If things get too much...

Then you should speak to someone immediately. If you feel that you can't repay your loan or keep up with your credit card payments then contact your credit-provider, they will be able to set up a repayment structure for you.

If it is more serious, like you can't afford your rent or mortgage payments or have an unpaid tax-bill, then there are resources that provide free independent advice.

Free debt advice is available from Citizens Advice, National Debtline, CCCS or the Money Advice Trust.

Miquita Oliver faces bankruptcy due to unpaid tax bill

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Former T4 presenter Miquita Oliver is facing bankruptcy after failing to pay a tax bill of more than £174,000, according to a firm of accountants.

A statement from the firm, Baker Tilly confirmed that the HM Revenue and Customs had petitioned for the star to be declared bankrupt due to unpaid taxes on 11 November last year.

The 27-year-old is perhaps best known for presenting Popworld with Simon Amstell in the early part of the last decade. 

Facing bankruptcy: The TV presenter Miquita Oliver was a bridesmaid at childhood friend Lily Allen's wedding last year.

She left the Channel 4 show in 2006 but continued to present on T4 and has also hosted shows on BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra. 

She also went on to work on the 4Music channel and was a bridesmaid at the wedding of childhood friend Lily Allen last year.

Her publicist said: 'We can confirm that Miquita Oliver filed for bankruptcy in November 2011. She has many projects in the pipeline both here and in the US for 2012.'

Downhill: After a stint as a presenter for T4 with Steve Jones, Miquita Oliver has now filed for bankruptcy, she is just 27

Famous friends: Miquita Oliver was bridesmaid at Lily Allen's wedding, pictured here leaving Groucho Club in 2007

Baker Tilly’s Geoff Carton-Kelly has been appointed trustee of the TV star’s affairs.

He said: 'Investigating and recovering assets for the benefits of creditors is the primary role of the Trustee in Bankruptcy.

'At this stage it is too early to comment on the level of Miss Oliver’s assets and the likely return to creditors.'

Oliver isn't the only celebrity to experience money troubles, showing how high earnings do not always mean lasting wealth.

In November last year, former popstar and reality TV star Kerry Katona finally cleared her debts after being declared bankrupt in 2008.

She was able to settle her debts, which once stood at £417,000 after receiving a £350,000 fee for appearing on celebrity Big Brother.

Controversial: Miquita Oliver's interviewing style sometimes confused her guests, pictured with Kesha in 2007

Katona was declared bankrupt despite reportedly earning £75,000 a year as the face of supermarket chain Iceland and £400,000 a year as a columnist for OK! Magazine.

In August 2009, Men Behaving Badly star Neil Morrissey announced that he would be not filing for bankruptcy after he lost £2.5million after investing in a string of hotels and pubs.

Instead, Morrissey took an IVA (Individual Voluntary Arrangement) which meant he would pay his creditors back.

Bankrupt: Kerry Katona and Neil Morrissey have both faced money troubles

He told the News of the World: 'People advise you to take the easy route - it'll only last a year and you'll be back up and running. But I just thought there are too many good people who've lost their money on these deals, and I wanted to repay them as much as I possibly could. I feel morally obliged. Afterwards I'll feel better about myself.

Duchess of York, Sarah 'Fergie' Ferguson was reportedly saved from the brink of bankruptcy after racking up debts of nearly £5million.

She said her former husband Prince Andrew helped her sort out her finances in an interview with Hello! Magazine in July last year.






How rich is Alan Titchmarsh?

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In the latest in our Celebrity Money series, examining how the rich and famous made their fortunes, we look at TV presenter, gardener and 'unlikely sex symbol' Alan Titchmarsh...

Ever-green: Alan Titchmarsh has signed an £11m deal with ITV

At his age many people would be thinking of retiring but earlier this year green-fingered genius Alan Titchmarsh signed an £11m deal with ITV to front a new gardening programme, four more seasons of his talk show and other peak time shows.

The 61-year-old star will receive £5m for fronting a new show to rival Gardeners' World - the BBC series he hosted for six years until 2002 - as well as four more seasons of his daytime talk show The Alan Titchmarsh Show.

Production company Spun Gold will get the rest of the cash in the two-year deal.

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Titchmarsh was born in Ilkley in Yorkshire, the son of Bessie, a textile mill worker, and Alan Titchmarsh, Sr., a plumber. He worked as an apprentice gardener after leaving school before studying horticulture at college. He made his name as a gardening journalist with his first television appearances being on the BBC's Nationwide show as a horticulture expert.

Although still known best for his gardening expertise, Titchmarsh has gone on to have a diverse broadcasting, presenting and writing career.

1997: In BBC series Ground Force with fellow presenters Charlie Dimmock and Tommy Walsh

Over the years he's flitted between the BBC and ITV fronting shows including Pebble Mill at One, the Chelsea Flower Show and Songs of Praise.

In 1997, he took gardening to the masses with popular BBC series, Ground Force, in which he and fellow presenters Charlie Dimmock and Tommy Walsh would perform a makeover on a garden. The show travelled as far as the US and South Africa, where one episode saw the Ground Force team makeover Nelson Mandela's garden.

Titchmarsh has also presented one-off specials of the Antiques Roadshow and The Paul O-Grady Show. Last year he co-hosted Pop Star to Opera Star with singer Myleene Klass.

Also in 2010 he agreed a lucrative deal to become the new face of B&Q. The DIY store and Titchmarsh both refused to reveal how much he was paid by the company but the deal saw the BBC come under attack. At the time Titchmarsh was presenting gardening shows for the BBC and his endorsement of B&Q was viewed by some as a commercial conflict of interests.

As well as his TV work, Titchmarsh has written over 40 gardening books, three biographies and seven works of fiction. A book deal with BBC Worldwide back in 2000 saw him earn more than £1m for just three books about gardening. In 2009 alone he sold £1.7million worth of books.

Married man: With his wife Alison; they have two children

An unlikely sex symbol Titchmarsh has a wax statue at Madame Tussaud's. It was revealed on the TV panel comedy series Would I Lie To You? that his waxwork had to have its face cleaned twice a week to remove all the lipstick smudges on it.

But the ladies are out of luck as the gorgeous gardener has been married to Alison since 1975. The couple have two children and live in a £1.25m house in Alton as well as owning a flat on the Isle of Wight where they keep their boat.

Awarded the MBE for services to horticulture and broadcasting in 2000, Titchmarsh is trustee of his own charity, 'Gardens For Schools', and others, including 'Seeds For Africa'.

Amanda Knox signs book deal with HarperCollins after publishing battle

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After months of tense battling between 20 publishers desperate for a big money windfall in the long run, Amanda Knox finally has a book deal.

Knox, 24, of Seattle, Washington, has signed for a reported $4million with HarperCollins to write about her murder conviction and acquittal in Italy.

While the deal will be respite for her family who spent $1million just dealing with her trial, it will provoke anger from her alleged victim's relatives.

Deal: Amanda Knox, whose conviction and eventual acquittal of murder charges made headlines worldwide, has an agreement with HarperCollins to tell her story

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The deal is expected to distress the family of Meredith Kercher, 21, the British student who lived with Knox in Perugia, found in a pool of blood.

Knox, who was jailed for four years in Perugia, has only spoken publically once when she arrived back in the U.S. following her release last October.

Her family spent more than $1million in legal, travel and living costs to be near her during the murder trial in Italy - and even more on her appeal.

Knox's parents, Edda Mellas and Curt Knox, who divorced when she was aged just two, have put on a united front and took out second mortgages.

‘Knox will give a full and unflinching account of the events that led to her arrest in Perugia,’ a HarperCollins spokesman said on Thursday.

He added that she will talk about her ‘struggles with the complexities of the Italian judicial system’ and read back journals she kept in prison.

Dead: The case relates to the fatal stabbing of Meredith Kercher, 21, a British student who shared a flat with Knox in Perugia, found in a pool of blood

‘Knox will talk about her harrowing experience at the hands of the Italian police and later prison guards and inmates,’ he said.

HarperCollins is promising she will ‘reveal never before-told details surrounding her case’ about ‘the most challenging time of her young life’.

'Knox will give a full and unflinching account of the events that led to her arrest in Perugia and her struggles with the complexities of the Italian judicial system'

HarperCollins spokesman

The book, currently untitled, is tentatively scheduled for early 2013. The mammoth financial agreement was disclosed by the New York Times.

It was negotiated by Washington attorney Robert Barnett, who has worked for President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush.

Some 20 publishers were interested in the book and Knox met with seven, all of whom submitted bids during a recent auction.

HarperCollins publisher Jonathan Burnham said that Knox, who studied creative writing, would work with a collaborator.

The company should be able to recoup some of its investment by selling TV interview rights on the back of the book.

Broadcasters are banned from paying for interviews but they routinely get around it by buying the rights to the interviewee’s book instead.

Big money: The deal was negotiated by attorney Robert Barnett, who has worked for President Barack Obama, left, and former President George W. Bush, right

Her editor will be Claire Wachtel, whose other authors have included crime novelist Dennis Lehane and journalist Cokie Roberts.

Publishers in recent years have shied from controversial defendants, especially since the fiasco of O.J. Simpson's ‘If I Did It’.

'I think it’s a huge gamble for somebody. It’s not like she has been exonerated in a clear and definitive way'

Anonymous publisher

That was a fictionalised account of Nicole Brown Simpson's murder that was cancelled in 2006 by HarperCollins in response to public outrage.

After Casey Anthony was cleared last year of killing her two-year-old daughter, several publishers said they would not consider a book by her.

‘I think it’s a huge gamble for somebody,’ a publisher who had no intention of bidding on the story told the New York Times earlier this month.

‘It’s not like she has been exonerated in a clear and definitive way.’

Harrowing: The value of Knox's story has been compared to that of Jaycee Dugard, seen in 1991, who was held captive for almost two decades in California

The value of her story has been compared to that of Jaycee Dugard, who was kidnapped and held captive for almost two decades.

'Aided by journals she kept during her imprisonment, Knox will talk about her harrowing experience at the hands of the Italian police and later prison guards and inmates'

HarperCollins spokesman

She had a book published last July that has sold 1.2million copies. But while the deal is good news for Knox, her legal issues are not over.

Earlier this week, Italian prosecutors asked the top court to reinstate the murder convictions of Knox and her former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito.

Sollecito, who had reportedly been considering seeing Amanda at Christmas, has since been pictured kissing and cuddling Annie Achille.

Miss Achille is an Italian volleyball player who is also his distant cousin.

Together: Amanda Knox has been seen out in Seattle, Washington, with her new boyfriend, guitarist James Terrano, since she got home from Italy

Knox meanwhile has been seen hand-in-hand in Seattle with her new boyfriend, guitarist James Terrano.

Prosecutor Giovanni Galati said he is ‘very convinced’ that Sollecito and Knox were responsible for Miss Kercher's death in November 2007.

But the Italian appeals court in October said the guilty verdicts against the pair were not corroborated by any evidence.

It added that the court hadn't proven they were in the house when Miss Kercher was killed.

A third defendant, Ivory Coast-born drifter Rudy Guede, was convicted in a separate trial of sexually assaulting and stabbing Miss Kercher.

Continuing: Earlier this week, Italian prosecutors asked the top court to reinstate the murder convictions of Knox and her former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito

His 16-year sentence, reduced in appeal from an initial 30 years, was upheld by Italy's highest court in 2010.

'She will reveal never before-told details surrounding her case, and describe how she used her inner strength and strong family ties to cope with the most challenging time of her young life'

HarperCollins spokesman

Meanwhile, a lawyer for Knox recently filed an appeal of her slander conviction in Italy.

The same court that overturned her murder conviction upheld the charges for slander - for falsely accusing bar owner Diya ‘Patrick’ Lumumba of involvement in the slaying.

Lumumba was freed after two weeks in prison for lack of evidence. Knox later said she was ‘manipulated’ during her lengthy police interrogation.

A judge set Knox's sentence for slander at three years, less than the time she spent in prison. That meant she could leave Italy and return to Seattle.







Spanx founder Sara Blakely becomes youngest self-made woman to join Forbes' World Billionaires list

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So famous is Spanx, that whenever a we see a glimpse of a celebrity's slimming undergarments, the brand name almost inevitably appears in the headline.

And it seems that the A-list aren't the only ones, as the company's founder, Sara Blakley, appears this week on the cover of Forbes' Billionaires issue.

The 41-year-old, who originally hails from Florida but is now based in New York, is the youngest self-made woman to make the list.

Hose that girl? Sara Blakely is Forbes' youngest self-made billionaire thanks to the invention of Spanx

Fashionable: Ms Blakely has worked hard to associate her product with glamour

The magazine reveals how the founder of a company that is estimated to be worth about $1billion is scared of heights, flying and speaking in public.

And yet despite these crippling fears, Ms Blakely, has made her fortune largely as a one-woman show, travelling cross-country for in-store demonstrations and taking customer service calls from her bathroom at home.

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A one-time Disneyworld employee, Ms Blakely found her real calling when hawking fax machines door to door for Danks, an office stationary supply company in Florida.

Uncomfortable in the sticky humidity she was desperate to find a pair of pantyhose that didn't have seamed toes and that didn't roll up the leg when she cut them.

She explained to Forbes: 'I’d never worked in fashion or retail. I just needed an undergarment that didn’t exist.'

After setting aside her life-savings of $5000, the aspiring hosiery maven moved to Atlanta and threw herself into research, knocking on factory doors to get her new product manufactured.

To save the $3,000 legal fees needed to patent the name she used a Barnes & Noble textbook and learned how to do it herself.

Of the brand, Ms Blakely said: 'The word "Spanx" was funny. It made people laugh. No one ever forgot it.'

Without a penny to spend on packaging or advertising, the wily entrepreneur spent evenings on a friend’s computer designing her logo and reading up on marketing tips.

Slimline: Plans for expansion of the brand include a diffusion line

In the Forbes story she recalled being caught on a CCTV camera in a department store repositioning her products so they were displayed more prominently.

The character and charm that she relied on to launch her business was noted by current CEO of Neiman Marcus, Karen Katz, who saw her first ever pitch.

'Sara’s effort was to solve an age-old problem for women in a modern way,' she said, adding: 'We were smitten from the beginning.'

When Oprah announced on her show that Spanx was her favourite product of the year in 2000, despite not even have a website, the business exploded.

In its first year, the company, that is still owned entirely by Ms Blakely, fetched $4million in sales with an impressive $10million the next.

And all the while, she has never spent a cent on advertising or relied on support from investors.

These days nine catalogues are mailed to six million shoppers every year and the founder is plotting for expansion with her long-standing CEO Laurie Ann Goldman.

Plans including stand alone stores, a cheaper diffusion line and a swimwear line.

Of the newly earned wealth that affords her six homes with husband Jesse Itzler and their two-year-old son, Lazer, she said: 'I feel like money makes you more of who you already are.

'If you’re an asshole, you become a bigger asshole. If you’re nice, you become nicer. Money is fun to make, fun to spend and fun to give away.'

And then thinking about that her humble beginnings added: 'Five grand. Good investment.'



Richest Rappers of 2012: Diddy crowned the new King of Hip-Hop

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Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs has eclipsed Jay-Z to be crowned Hip-Hop's Wealthiest Artist 2012.

Diddy has accumulated a net worth of $550million (£345million) significantly surpassing his closest rival Jay-Z who topped the list in 2011 but has now claimed second place with a net worth of $460million (£288million) according to the Forbes Five, a short list of hip-hop’s wealthiest moguls.

Diddy’s fortune has been built over his 15 years in the industry and is also the product of his own illustrious rap career and several successful business ventures including his record label Bad Boy Records which he founded in 1993 and since then has been home to a number of successful artists including The Notorious B.I.G., Faith Evans and Mase.

Richest rapper: Sean 'Diddy' Combs surpassed Jay-Z with £345million

Diddy has also focused his energies on ventures away from the hip hop industry such as his stakes in his celebrated clothing lines, Sean John and Enyce, marketing firm Blue Flame and his shares in Cîroc vodka. Sales of the spirit spiked 122 per cent last year, after the highly-anticipated launch of Cîroc Peach.

Diddy is a brand ambassador for Cîroc, he receives double-digit millions annually as a share of the company’s profit and is also entitled to a nine-figure sum if the brand is ever sold. In the past Diddy has expressed his interest in becoming the first billionaire hip-hop mogul and his deal with Comcast to launch cable channel Revolt in 2013 is sure to catapult him into billionaire territory.

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Diddy will own Revolt outright and based on projected viewership totals it has been predicted that the value of the channel could reach nine figures in subsequent years according to Forbes magazine. Diddy’s predecessor, hip-hop veteran Jay-Z is one of the few artists on the list that continues to successfully release albums and tour.

As well as accumulating money from his iconic rap career, a large quantity of Jay-Z’s fortune comes from the proceeds of the sale of his clothing label Rocawear which was sold in 2007 for $204million (£128million).

Number two: Jay-Z is one of the few artists on the rich list that continues to successfully release albums and tour

Jay-Z also signed a 10-year $150million (£94million) deal with Live Nation in 2008, co-owns the 40/40 Club chain and the NBA’s New Jersey Nets. Diddy and Jay-Z are in good company, the rest of The Forbes Five is made up of record producer Andre ‘Dr. Dre’ Young who came in third place with a fortune of $260million (£163million) followed by Cash Money founder Bryan ‘Birdman’ Williams who took the fourth spot with $125million (£78million). Rapper Curtis ‘50 Cent’ Jackson claimed the fifth and final spot on the celebrated list with a fortune of $110million (£69million).

All of the members of the elite Forbes Five have a fighting chance of reaching the billion pound mark in the next few years although advertising guru Steve Stoute who founded and co-owns Translation with Jay-Z doesn’t believe that it is a clear race, commenting on Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram for $1billion, he said: ‘Who’s going to be hip-hop’s first billionaire is still to be determined, As much as it’s easy to say it’ll be Diddy or Jay, you don’t necessarily know, given what a guy like Kanye or Will.i.am is capable of doing, In a world where people are creating applications that sell for a billion dollars, you never know who’s going to come out of left field.’

The Forbes Five: Hip-Hops Wealthiest Artists 2012

1. Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs - $550million (£345million)

Diddy has remained a mainstream mainstay for 15 years thanks to his knack for self-promotion. Lately, he’s been channelling that energy toward Cîroc vodka, much to the benefit of his bank account: he receives double-digit millions annually as a share of the spirit’s profits. Better yet, he’s entitled to a nine-figure chunk of cash if Cîroc is ever sold. He also boasts stakes in clothing likes Sean John and Enyce, marketing firm Blue Flame, record label Bad Boy, a handful of tech start-ups and cable channel Revolt, slated for a 2013 debut-all of which means he’s well on his way to becoming hip-hops first billionaire.

2. Shawn ‘Jay-Z’ Carter - $460million  (£288million)

Unlike his fellow Forbes Five members, Jay-Z still churns out music and goes on tour-most recently with pal Kanye West-adding to this considerable war chest. He sold his Rocawear clothing label for $204million in 2007 and signed a 10-year $150million deal with Live Nation in 2008, and also holds stakes in the New Jersey Nets, his 40/40 Club chain, ad firm Translation, cosmetics company Carol’s Daughter and other businesses.

3. Andre ‘Dr Dre’ Young - $260million

Number three: Producer Dr Dre

Fittingly, the bulk of this super-producers wealth comes from headphones. In August, handset maker HTC paid $300million to buy a 51 per cent stake Beats Electronics, the company founded by Dr. Dre and Interscope chief Jimmy Iovine in 2008. Sources say each owned a third of the company before the deal, placing Dre’s cut at $85 million after taxes. The agreement also values his remaining stake at $100 million, which could increase rapidly as the company continues to expand.

4. Bryan ‘Birdman’ Williams - $125 million

The Cash Money Records cofounder would be higher on this list if he held sole ownership of his label, but he shares it with brother Ronald ‘Slim’ Williams. The duo founded Cash Money two decades ago, inking very favourable $30 million distribution deal with Universal in 1998. The label’s value has soared with the success of rappers Drake, Nicki Minaj and Lil Wayne (who shares in the ownership of sub-label Young Money). There’s even more cash on the horizon—the label’s deal with Universal is up this summer, raising the prospect of a bidding war for the right to distribute Cash Money’s releases.

5. Curtis ‘50 Cent’ Jackson - $110 million

The Queens-born rapper earned $100 million for his Vitaminwater stake in 2007, and then spent freely on cars and renovations to his Connecticut mansion, formerly owned by Mike Tyson. But a nice cushion remains from his back catalogue, acting gigs and 50 Cent-themed videogames, books and clothes, as well as new headphone line SMS. Next up: an energy shot called Street King, which promises to feed hungry children—and 50’s bank account.



THE INTERVIEW: Phones¿4U founder John Caudwell is happy to be Britain's top taxpayer

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Attack: John Caudwell, with partner Claire Johnson, was battered during a raid at his Broughton Hall home

As a small boy growing up  in a cramped terrace house in a suburb of Stoke- on-Trent, John Caudwell dreamed of driving around in a Rolls-Royce handing out fivers.

‘My father was unwell when I was 11 and died when I was 18. My mother going to work at seven every morning and returning every evening to look after him, me and my brother left its mark on me,’ he says.

‘The trauma that lack of money and ill health creates made me realise that financial security was very important, but, equally, so was good health.’

Now the man who netted nearly £1.5 billion from selling his Phones 4U mobile phone empire in 2006 is so rich that he is estimated to be the biggest taxpayer in Britain, handing £165 million to the Revenue in the past four years. That will rise by another £120 million by the end of next January, he reckons.

At a time when high earners are fleeing the country to escape the 50p top tax rate, the 59-year-old tycoon says he will stay unless the tax regime becomes intolerable.

‘I’m proud of my country and feel very lucky to have been born in Britain. Some may say I’m a mug for staying. It is a colossal sum of tax to pay but I don’t want to be a tax exile,’ he says.

He is, however, ‘deeply unhappy’ at money squandered on inefficiency and bureaucracy in Europe.

‘The craziness of Brussels infuriates me. They come up with lunatic directives such as bananas must be a certain size – and while those get the publicity, it’s the more technical and obscure directives relating to employment regulations that we should be wary of,’ he says.

‘Many of these rules are helping to make Britain uncompetitive, and it is at times like these that we need to be fighting furiously to reduce unit costs, create jobs and grow Britain’s wealth.’

But despite Brussels and the taxman, Caudwell has thrived and believes that the man he is today, with a 50-bedroom Jacobean home – Broughton Hall – and a helicopter he pilots himself, is not so far removed from that ambitious boy. ‘Handing out fivers was my naive interpretation of charitable work, but the same principles apply. I sold Phones 4U to concentrate on charity,’ he says.

The idea for Caudwell’s charity came after he spent time working with the NSPCC. He says he was deeply moved and humbled by the children he met, many of whom were victims of abuse and lived in poverty.

It was, he says, an epiphany. But his Caudwell Children charity is run as commercially and ruthlessly and aggressively as any competitive enterprise. So far it has provided services worth more than £13 million to thousands of children with more than 350 different medical conditions.

‘As the father of five healthy children I cannot begin to imagine the heartache that parents of disabled and sick children suffer,’ says Caudwell. ‘These parents are truly amazing and I bow to their courage.’

So important has charitable work become to him that Caudwell has decided he will leave the lion’s share of his fortune to a charitable foundation when he dies.

He says: ‘Why would I leave all my wealth to five children when this money can be used to make such a huge difference to millions of vulnerable and disadvantaged people? ‘Money will not make my children any happier or more contented, if anything it will make them less so.’ His says his children are happy with the arrangement.

He adds: ‘Now my priority is to maintain and enhance my personal wealth because the more I’ve got, the more effectively I can do charitable work and leave money to causes close to my heart when I die.’

‘Working for the charity is a great leveller. Whenever I feel sorry for myself I think of these children, many of whom are battling for life with the utmost grace and dignity.’

Caudwell seems to have it easy, but he and his partner, former model  Claire Johnson, have both ‘had brushes with cancer’ and during a robbery two years at Broughton Hall ago he was hit over the head with a crowbar. The attackers were never caught.

But he says: ‘Compared to what many of the challenges sick and disadvantaged children must face each day, our worries are small league.The attack hasn’t changed me in any psychological way, but it has made me question why Claire and I need to own expensive jewellery. What’s the point if people are going to see you as a target and break into your house?

‘Claire doesn’t’ feel the same way. She would like all her jewellery replaced. Of course, they were expensive pieces, but for Claire they were absolutely priceless for sentimental reasons.

‘Many of her favourites were designed especially by me. I helped to source the diamonds and had a lot of input into their creation. But they are gone and they are never coming back. The attack has changed my life for ever, but only in one way – I don’t live in fear but I do surround myself with security these days.

‘It has taken a lot of getting used to but it’s a part or my life now and at least I rest easy in my bed.’

How rich is Johnny Depp?

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Forbes calculated Johnny Depp to be Hollywood’s second highest paid actor in 2012, earning $30million. In the latest in our series on celebrity money, we look at how Depp made his millions.

He may have played some strange roles but Depp's got his head screwed on when it comes to cash.

Born in 1963, the actor first became a teen idol due to his role on 1980s TV show 21 Jump Street.

Johnny Depp playing Captain Jack Sparrow in 2006

He soon moved to the big screen, specialising in quirky oddball characters such as the title characters in Edward Scissorhands and What's Eating Gilbert Grape?

£110M FOR VANESSA - THE 'WIFE' HE NEVER WED

Johnny Depp’s former partner Vanessa Paradis, 38, is set to receive half of Depp’s hundreds of millions.

French singer, actress and former Chanel model is most recognised for her 14 year relationship with Depp. 

Although they never married, there are claims that Depp will be handing over half of his $350million (£225million) wealth over to the French beauty.

Vanessa first received global attention at the age of 13, with the pop hit ‘Joe le taxi’. Since then she has been the face for Chanel and was awarded Best Actress at the 2012 Genies (Canada’s equivalent to the Oscars). 

Some would say this is expected of Depp, as she is the mother to Depp’s two children and has built her own career separate to that of her partners.

Depp is one of the highest paid actors in the world; his annual salary varies from $30million to $100million thanks to many of his successful films. In particular Pirates of the Caribbean, which has contributed to a yearly box office gross of around $7.6.billion worldwide.

Not only will Paradis be walking away with Depp’s money, she will own half of the properties they once shared together.

Properties like their $2million (£1.2million) farmhouse in France which they brought their two children, 13 year old Lilly-rose and 10 year old Jack up in will now belong to Paradis.

Other box office success added to his coffers, including roles in Sleepy Hollow, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the hugely successful Pirates of the Caribbean series – the first three films grossed more than $2.7billion (£1.65billion). 

Depp was paid £21million to reprise his role as Captain Jack Sparrow in the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean film On Stranger Tides, released last year. It made him the highest earner that year but failed to surpass the £38million paid to Harrison Ford to come back for a fourth Indiana Jones film.

However, Depp, the son of a waitress and a civil engineer, came from humble beginnings.

His family moved more than 20 times during his childhood before settling in Florida. Family problems led him to self-harm as a child.

His parents divorced when Depp was a teenager and soon after he dropped out of school to become a rock star.

After modest local success with various bands he started to concentrate on his acting career.  

Despite being known for shunning publicity, Depp's personal life has hit the headlines on numerous occasions.

He had a short-lived marriage to a make-up artist in the 1980s and went on to date actresses Winona Ryder, Sherilyn Fenn and Jennifer Gray, as well as model Kate Moss.

Between 1993 and 2004, Depp part owned the Viper Room nightclub in Hollywood, made infamous after fellow actor River Phoenix died of a drug overdose in 1993.

In 1998 Depp began dating Vanessa Paradis, the couple where together for 14 years until they amicably split earlier this month. 

Paradis, 39, and Depp, 49, never exchanged vows, but Depp has decided to hand over half of his fortune to the mother of his two children. This is set to be one of the biggest pay-offs between a non-married couple. The speculations is that Vanessa will receive more than $150million. 

As part of his quest for privacy, in 2004 Depp bought a private island in the Caribbean for $3.6million (£2.2million).  Little Halls Pond Cay is about 60 miles south of Nassau in the protected Exuma Land and Sea Park.

Depp has properties in LA, Hawaii and England and earlier this year snapped up the Palazzo Donà Sangiantoffetti Palace in Venice, Italy for a reported $13.8million (£8.4million).

Depp is clearly rich and handsome but he also demonstrates compassion. In 2008 he donated $2million (£1.3million) to Great Ormond Street Hospital after his daughter Lily-Rose, then aged eight, was treated for kidney failure there. 

In 2009, he played Heath Ledger's character in The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus after Ledger died following an accidental overdose. 

Alongside Jude Law and Colin Farrell, Depp donated his fee for the film to Ledger's daughter Matilda who was left out of her father's original will.

Johnny Depp after being interviewed for the BBC in 2011



Jeremy Clarkson lands a bumper £5m payday - the Top Gear star's road to riches

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Rolling on it: Clarkson has turned his love of cars into a serious money-spinner and landed a £5m windfall from his Top Gear stake.

Top Gear star Jeremy Clarkson has landed himself a reported £5m bumper payday by selling his production company stake to the BBC

The windfall steps the wealth of the television presenter and journalist up another hefty notch – not bad for a man who has previously declared he is not a fan of money.

Clarkson, 52, told a BBC interviewer in 2009: 'I'm literally not the slightest bit interested in money. I just don't pay any attention to money, it's rather vulgar.'

The BBC has bought out the stakes owned by Clarkson and the show’s executive producer Andy Wilman in firm Bedder 6, which the pair set up five years ago to cash in on the Top Gear brand.

To many Clarkson's reward will be considered richly deserved thanks to his pulling power and hard work in building up the Top Gear brand.

As a joint shareholder in Bedder 6, the BBC has gold on Top Gear merchandise, show tours, DVDs and international sales rights. 

Clarkson and Wilman, who have known each other since their school days, owned half the firm, 30 per cent 20 per cent each, respectively, while BBC Worldwide owned the other half.

Now the pair have given the BBC full control. It is understood the total deal for both men is worth around £8million. The money will come from the commercial division BBC Worldwide.

Clarkson has worked his way into the position of being one of the best paid stars on British television and is believed to be paid a £500,000 talent fee by the BBC.

Bedder 6 generated sales of £40.6 million, up from £32.9 million - a rise of 23 per cent - according to Companies House statements which cover the year to March 31, 2011. It meant the company made a gross profit of almost £18 million compared to just under £13 million the previous year.

Clarkson earned a £1.8m dividend and £350,000 payment for services from Bedder 6 to add to his BBC salary.

Figures calculated from a BBC report this summer suggest the dividend payout will have risen again over the past year to £2.7m, added to his other payments this would take his Top Gear earnings potentially as high as £3.5m

He recently signed a new deal with the BBC to present Top Gear for another three years. His fellow presenters Richard Hammond and James May also inked new deals.

A BBC Worldwide spokesman said: ‘BBC Worldwide has agreed new commercial deals with Jeremy, James, Richard and Andy to secure Top Gear’s international future for another three years.

'This agreement secures the commercial future of Top Gear without using a penny of licence fee money and allows us to continue to grow the brand around the world and return profits to the BBC.’

The BBC is not saying publicly how much it has paid for the Bedder 6 buy-out, but insiders say it is below £10 million.

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Stars and cars: Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May have turned Top Gear into one of the BBC's most popular programmes.

Clarkson: From a love of cars to the road to riches

Jeremy Clarkson's wealth has been generated largely thanks to his role as the ringleader on Top Gear, the massively successful BBC Two cars show, broadcast in 100 countries around the world and watched by 350m.

He first appeared on the show in 1988, but his real earnings potential came after its relaunch in 2002. That turned what had mainly been a motoring magazine show into a big budget entertainment staple, mixing cars, adventure travel, stunts and the often controversial views of its trio of presenters - Clarkson, Hammond and May.

Clarkson is paid a reported £500,000 by the BBC topped up by another £350,000 from Bedder 6 for Top Gear.

Documents filed at Companies House showed that in the year to 31 March 2011, Clarkson received nearly £1.8million in dividends from Bedder 6 and £350,000 in 'payment for services'.

The company generated sales of £40.6 million, up from £32.9 million - a rise of 23 per cent - according to the statements which cover the year to March 31, 2011.

It meant the company made a gross profit of almost £18 million compared to just under £13 million the previous year. The dividend payout rose from £1.6million to £5.9million - a 268 per cent increase.

The company was optimistic about continued growth, stating: 'Future results will include contribution from the next seasons of the U.S. and Australian versions of the Top Gear programme, which have been recommissioned by the History Channel and Channel Nine respectively.'

That growth is expected to have sent his earnings even higher for the past year, for which figures have not yet been published. Figures calculated in July suggested his dividend payout was now £2.7m.

His earnings are further fuelled by books, DVDs and columns for newspapers and magazines. He is a weekly columnist for the Sunday Times and has become a prolific book writer, mainly of best-selling collections of his columns. Figures showed his books series sold 4.9m copies between 2000-2009.

Star in a reasonably expensive car

Clarkson's success has enabled him to indulge his passion and rack up an impressive stable of motors.

Clarkson is reported to own, or have owned a wide range of vehicles.

These stretch from supercars such as a Lamborghini Gallardo, Mercedes SLS, Ford GT and Ferrari 355, to more affordable choices, including a Volkswagen Scirocco, Volvo XC90 and the car he singles out for praise more often than most a Range Rover.

He has also appeared in shows such as Have I Got News for You, Who Do You Think You Are?, Grumpy Old Men and Room 101 (when he famously dispatched caravans down the rubbish chute) and has presented several military and engineering-related programmes.

Forthright views and a comic touch mean he is also in demand on the after dinner speaker circuit, where he can command at least £20,000 a time.

Clarkson, began his career as a local newspaper reporter before moving on to his first love of reviewing cars.

Clarkson has inherited some of his business nous from his mother Shirley who created the first ever Paddington Bear soft toy as a Christmas gift for her kids, and then won the UK licence to produce it commercially in 1972.

Clarkson's parents sent him to Repton, a public school in Derbyshire, where Bedder 6 partner Wilman was two years above him.

In an interview with AutoTrader magazine she said she often thought that if it weren't for Paddington Bear, Jeremy would not have had all the chances in life that he has enjoyed.

A Cotswold home, has led to Clarkson becoming a member of what has been dubbed the Chipping Norton set.

A broad socialising collection of media, arts and businesses figures, which ranges from Prime Minister David Cameron, to former News International chief executive and editor of the Sun Rebekah Brooks, Blur bassist Alex James and Rupert Murdoch’s daughter Elisabeth and her husband PR chief Matthew Freud.

Clarkson also owns a £1.2m lighthouse holiday home in an Isle of Man beauty spot, set in about 40 acres of coastland.

Clarkson's money matters haven't always run smoothly though. He was among thousands of wealthy investors who saw their cash piles eroded in 2008 when their investment in a fund with AIG plummeted in value when the insurer got into difficulties.

Shortly afterwards, he revealed being a victim in his newspaper column saying: Jeremy Clarkson was also a victim. In a newspaper column, he said: 'Inwardly I was screaming. It's my money. I gave it to you. You've squandered it on a Mexican's house in San Diego and a stupid football team and that's your problem. Not mine.'

He also famously made his bank details public believing wrongly that they could not be used to commit a fraud. Someone duly set up a direct debit on his account for £500 - and uncharacteristically Clarkson was forced to eat his words.



How rich is Terry Wogan?

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Veteran radio and television presenter Sir Terry Wogan revealed in his most recent TV outing 'Terry Wogan's Ireland' (a personal documentary-style trip down memory lane to the land of his birth) that his first job was as a bank clerk with the Royal Bank of Ireland handling wads of cash and coins.

Terry Wogan: Reports suggest he is now worth well over £20m

That was 50 years ago, when Sir Terry routinely lugged bag loads of banknotes and coins in a bus across Dublin to the bank's headquarters.

Today he would struggle to carry his own vast stash, which reports suggest is now worth well over £20m.

The 72-year-old, who is married with two sons and a daughter, has accumulated his cash pile over five decades since switching from banking to broadcasting in the late 1950s.

Starting out with Irish national radio and television, he came to Britain in the late 60s where he steadily gained fame and fortune through presenting initially a BBC Radio 2 afternoon show and then prime time BBC television programmes, including Come Dancing, Blankety Blank, his own Wogan chat show and Auntie's Bloomers.

TV star: Wogan hosted quiz show Blankety Blank

He also provided the TV commentary for the annual Eurovision Song Contest for more than three decades until giving up in 2008 (latterly earning £150,000 for each gig).

He has also been the front man for the Children in Need fundraising telethon since it launched in 1978 (he gives the fee for this event to the charity).

Sir Terry is probably most famous for Wake up to Wogan, the Radio 2 breakfast radio show he hosted for 28 years with eight million fans (nicknamed Terry's Old Geezers and Gals or Togs for short) tuning in daily, until he handed over the reins to Chris Evans in late 2009.

He picked up megabucks at the radio microphone, at one point earning £800,000 a year.

Charity: He gives his Children in Need fee to the charity

In an interview with Hello magazine in 2006, Wogan said: 'I don't give a monkey's about people knowing it. Nor do I feel guilty. If you do the maths, factoring in my eight million listeners, I cost the BBC about 2p a fortnight. I think I'm cheap at the price'.

Nowadays, the man with the gift of the gab is winding down - at least with the BBC - and now earns more modest (although undisclosed) pay for a weekly Sunday slot on Radio 2.

He has just taken on another role that plays to his strengths as a chatterbox - as a member of the panel on the cult radio show Just A Minute.

  More... How rich is Bruce Forsyth? How rich is Carol Vorderman? How rich is Alan Sugar?

But the monster money still comes rolling in from television presenting. According to the Daily Mail, Channel 4 pays Sir Terry £1.2m a year to present the quiz Wogan's Perfect Recall

Radio 2: He hosted his show for 28 years

Meanwhile, he has also earned reams of royalties from writing over the years.

His books have included Banjaxed, The Day Job, Wogan on Wogan, Terry Wogan's Bumper Book of TOGs, Where Was I? The World According to Wogan (2009) and two autobiographies Is It Me? (2000) and Mustn't Grumble (2006), the latter of which is said to have netted him a £1m advance.

And there will more to pocket later this year when a book to accompany his BBC documentary on Ireland is published in September.

He also had some success in the past with his rendition of the brass band hit the Floral Song, which got to number 21 in the charts in 1978.

Chat host: Wogan, here with Madonna, had his own chat show

Sir Terry's smooth Irish tones are also popular with advertisers, including WH Smith, Nescafe and Heinz. Tesco is said to have paid him £250,000 for voice over work.

Sir Terry and his wife Helen live relatively modestly for a couple with his means. They have a house in Taplow, Buckinghamshire and a holiday home in Gascony, south-west France.

Tel has a penchant for Bentleys, however, one of which was sold at auction in 2009 for £4,840 and is now in a museum in Hungary.

How rich is Lord Alan Sugar? The Apprentice star's wealth

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In the latest in our series on celebrity money, we look at how Lord Sugar, star of The Apprentice, built his empire and what he's worth today.

Sugar rush: He has amassed a fortune through hard graft

Baron Sugar of Clapton could be a character out of a child's storybook.

Something along the lines of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or the Mister Men series perhaps?

There is certainly a fairy tale quality to the former Alan now Lord Sugar's rags to riches story.

He may be more frog than prince to many observers but the electronics-turned-property entrepreneur, television star and professional Mr Grumpy, certainly made it big through hard graft.

He famously started out with just £100 in 1967, selling aerials out of the back of a van and the journey to success and his current £730m wealth is charted in minute detail in his recently-published 600-page autobiography What You See is What You Get.

Born in to a poor Jewish family in 1947, where his dad struggled to make a living on just £13 a week as a tailor, Sugar is now ranked 85th on the Sunday Times 2010 Rich List.

His wheeler dealing today is carried out through his private company Amshold - the AMS bit stands for Alan Michael Sugar - which has interests in property trading, aircraft chartering and management services. He also has a share in computer firm Viglen.

Married life: Pictured here with his wife Ann

Money is not what drives him, says Sugar, who is married with two sons (who work for the business) and a daughter (who used to). 'Money is irrelevant,' he told the Sun newspaper recently, adding 'Once you've made a million it doesn't matter how many you've got.'

Sugar has plenty for himself so donates his BBC fee for presenting the ratings hit The Apprentice to Great Ormond Street Hospital and did the same when he featured in adverts for National Savings and Investments.

The 63-year old, who was born and brought up in an East End housing estate but now divides his time between various luxury multi-million pound homes in Chigwell in Essex to Spain and Boca Raton, Florida, also routinely returns (or at least attempts to return) his annual Winter Fuel Allowance, a £200 cash sum handed out by the state to the over 60s.

While television and the catchphrase 'You're fired' made him a star in the noughties, his heyday was arguably during the 1980s Thatcher years.

In that period he doubled profits each year at his infamous electronics firm Amstrad and by 1986 had created a company worth £1.2bn.

Sir Alan: He was made a Labour peer in July 2009

Despite his meteoric rise while the Conservatives were in power, Sugar's political allegiances switched elsewhere when Tony Blair came to power in 1997: he has donated to the Labour party several times since then, including £400,000 before the 2010 General Election. He was also made a Labour peer in July 2009.

Sugar's finances have not always been on an upward curve. Amshold saw profits plummet in 2008-09 from £71.1m to just £4.3m, although they revived the following year, doubling to £8.3m.

Amstrad, the brand that made Sugar rich and famous, went on a rapid decline in the 1990s, losing millions when it hit technical and reliability problems with its products. Sugar finally sold the company to BSkyB for £125m in 2007, a tenth of its glory days' value.

Nevertheless, thanks largely to his recent success with property ventures, Sugar is still enjoying the perks of prosperity.

Apart from his homes, he owns at least two private jets worth a total of £33.5m, according to the Daily Mail. And he has a fleet of expensive cars that include a Land Rover, Bentley, Ferrari and a Rolls Royce Phantom, which regularly features in The Apprentice.

You're fired!: The Apprentice has made him a TV star in the noughties

Sugar took it upon himself to sign a lucrative but undisclosed deal with Pan Macmillan to write his autobiography - without using an agent.

Published late last year the book stormed up the best-seller lists and was a runner-up to the 2010 best-seller Jamie Oliver's 30 Minute Meals.

An enthusiastic convert to Twitter, Sugar has given his book and the Apprentice plenty of plugs through the social network.

One of Sugar's big loves is football but he regrets much of his 10-year rocky involvement with Tottenham Hotspur, which he bought in 1991.

Sugar became chairman and made Terry Venables chief executive but pair quickly fell out, which led to a battle in the courts. Sugar was condemned by many loyal Venables' supporters and even received death threats.

After a decade, Sugar called time and decided to sell his majority stake, netting himself £22m in 2001 and then a further £25m when he offloaded the remainder in 2007. He told the Times newspaper in 2009 that his time with Tottenham was 'a waste of my life'.

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