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  1. Wealth
February 10, 2015

Spear's leaders from issue 43: The importance of Magna Carta and the freedom of movement

By Spear's

From the right to immigrate to becoming an entrepreneur and the pros and cons of your private swan song, these are what this magazine thinks…

‘Does Magna Carta mean nothing to you?’ Tony Hancock once asked. ‘Did she die in vain?’ Eight hundred years on, this charter of fundamental rights – extracted from an unwilling king by his bolshie barons – has reached a peak of reverence for its guarantees of access to justice and restrictions on government powers. Celebrations of its octocentenary, indeed, will occur all around the world. But are we toasting Magna Carta with one hand and tearing it up with the other?

Our legal columnist, Martyn Gowar, suggests we might well be. Global governments are reaching for taxes beyond what is allowed by our proper historic liberties, trampling over rights in their hunger for revenues. It is too easy for democratic governments- which derive some of their legitimacy from Magna Carta’s freedoms – to say they are upholding its spirit even as they extend their powers to meet their own desires.

We tackle another form of freedom, too, – not one mentioned in Magna Carta but as integral to Britain’s fabric as the charter: freedom of movement. Matthew Hardeman looks at how a strident anti-immigration political tone, combined with increasingly burdensome financial measures, could be putting off HNWs from coming to Britain in the hope of gaining permanent residence.

Nothing about the face Britain presents to the world should dissuade HNWs (or any other immigrants, for that matter) from coming, and it will be a shame if our political discourse does this. We are strong because we are diverse, inclusive, flexible, pragmatic and generous with all that we have.

More than 100 billionaires now live in Britain, most of whom weren’t born here, and they have chosen to do so not just because of our favourable tax treatment or the boggling range of services on offer within a mile of Berkeley Square but also because we are a country which recognises and welcomes the benefits that others have to offer.

The landscape of HNW London would lack some of its most familiar features without those who have arrived here with much or with little. C’sar Ritz came from Switzerland via Paris. Le Gavroche is the Roux brothers’ delicacy. Mayer Rothschild sent his five sons across Europe, including a scion who settled here. From our private members’ clubs and restaurants to our banks and law firms, the influence of incomers is everywhere evident.

In a year in which we celebrate Magna Carta, we should not forget all the other threads that make up the strong, enduring, multicoloured rope of British values.

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Middle-age spread

If you think of an entrepreneur, the chances are that you’re picturing a twentysomething, in T-shirt and blue jeans, working on a new app from the basement of their parents’ home. They may or may not have washed recently.

Yet according to the Kauffman Foundation, the median age of first-time entrepreneurs in the US is 43 – they are professionals who decide to launch their own business after spending the first twenty years of their career learning how companies are managed,developing various skills and building contacts.

It’s a tale that’s familiar to Ross Westgate. He left his two-decade-long job as news anchor at CNBC last year, when he was 47, and reinvented himself on the other side of the camera as the CEO of Infinity Creative Media, a privately owned TV production company which is developing new programmes such as The Classic Car Show and The Art Show. ‘I haven’t missed being on air for a single day,’ he writes.

What Ross proves is that switching careers isn’t necessarily a sign of an impending midlife crisis but rather the chance to clear the decks, to start afresh – this time with wisdom and experience. With the mortgage (probably) paid and the kids (hopefully) out of the house, you can embrace the risks you couldn’t afford to take earlier. You’ve seen risk and reward, ventures and failures, and know that almost nothing is irremediable.

In 2012, a study by the Future Workplace, a US consultancy firm that focuses on recruitment and employee development, found that 91 per cent of Millennials – defined as those who were born between 1977 and 1997 – expected to stay in a job for less than three years. This meant that, on average, they anticipated having between fifteen and twenty jobs during their lifetime. If you’ve been serving a ten-to-life stretch at yours, is it time to break out?

Parting Gifts

In death – as in life – style is everything. Some of us get state funerals, sailors hauling us to St Paul’s on a bier, stopped clocks and cannon fire. Others prefer something a little lower-key, with cherished hymns and a eulogy delivered by a bon-vivant best friend. And others still (heaven help us) opt for My Way. But if you were a frequenter of Savile Row and the Royal Opera House in life, a bespoke requiem might be just the thing.

William Stirling meets the composer writing funeral masses for the great and the good. Peter Roper-Curzon has so far done one for a financier, one for a shipping heir, and they both approve (you can hear them ante mortem, of course), as well they might: an act of cultural patronage, a monument to yourself and a lasting gift for your family all in one piece hit the right note.

However, the Requiem Man and his customised funeral service could also set a precedent. One doesn’t need to think too hard to come up with a few individuals, in the constant one-upmanship of HNW life, who would go for a personalised symphony, and some who would even replace the whole shebang with a dedicated This Is Your Life opera complete with chariot races, naval battles, an aria based on your net worth and an animatronic corpse dancing the Charleston.

Still, there’s something to be said for a different register of dying – to end up remembered for your bequests rather than because you had Andrew Lloyd Webber orchestrate your off. We mean slightly less noisome things, like charitable endowments or a foundation – just like Paul Hamlyn’s, which is changing lives years after he died.

You may not have a full score for orchestra, organ and soloists, but you’ll end up with a choir of grateful recipients singing your praises.

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