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Mark Thatcher

 of Sir Mark Thatcher
Coat of arms of Sir Mark Thatcher

The Honourable Sir Mark Thatcher, 2nd Baronet (born August 15, 1953), is the only son of Sir Denis Thatcher and Margaret Thatcher, the former British Prime Minister.

In addition to his prominence as the favored child of one of the world's most influential women, Sir Mark has attracted headlines for his arrogance, youthful playboy scrapes, troubled business associations, and his involvement in an attempted coup in Equitorial Guinea . In 2004, an unnamed South African hostess told "The Telegraph" that the baronet, who is reportedly worth in excess of 60 million pounds, reminded her of one of the "amiable, entertaining twits" that inhabit the novels of P.G. Wodehouse.

In 1987, Mark Thatcher married Diane Burgdorf , the conservative Christian daughter of a millionaire Texas car dealer. They reportedly met at a party for D Magazine, a Dallas lifestyle publication, while Thatcher was living in Texas as a representative of the luxury automotive company Lotus. They have a son and a daughter, Michael and Amanda Margaret. The family moved to South Africa possibly to avoid bad publicity because of allegations of racketeering that resulted in a £4 million civil action in 1994.

On April 3, 2005, Sir Mark, then living with his widowed mother in London, announced that his family will reside in Europe after he was refused a residence visa to live in the United States, presumably as a result of his reportedly unwitting involvement in the attempted coup. His children, he stated, will be educated in the United States.

Motor rallying career

In 1982, while competing in the Paris-Dakar rally, Thatcher, his French co-driver Charlotte Verney and their mechanic went missing in the Sahara Desert for six days. On January 9, the trio became separated from a convoy of vehicles after they stopped to make repairs to a faulty steering arm. They were declared missing on January 12; after a large-scale search, a C-130 Hercules search plane from the Algerian military spotted the white Peugeot 504 some 50km off course. Thatcher, Verney and the mechanic were all unharmed. He was criticised at the time for not thanking his rescuers. He financed his rallying under a company called Mark Thatcher Racing , but it dissolved because of financial problems. The Paris-Dakar incident was one of the few times that the public saw a cracking of Prime Minister Thatcher's Iron Lady reputation, as she gave way to moments of obvious despair and worry.

Business life

The young Thatcher hoped to become an accountant but failed his tests three times. He later employed in the jewelry business and was involved in equally unsuccessful career attempts in the Far East. It is his business dealings at the time that his mother was Prime Minister, however, that were the subject of much press attention.

Thatcher is alleged by Saudi dissident Mohammed Khilewi and British Member of Parliament Sir Tam Dalyell to have received a multimillion-pound commission on the £20 billion Al Yamamah arms contract with Saudi Arabia, which his mother signed in 1985 as Prime Minister. However, according to The Guardian, "Sir Mark has always denied receiving this payment or exploiting his mother's connections in business dealings."

Other widely reportedly Thatcher embarrassments include reported U.S. tax evasion (the criminal case was eventually dropped) and a racketeering case in Texas (it was settled out of court). According to "The Telegraph" (26 August 2004), "In 1998, he was at the centre of a scandal after he lent huge sums of money at exorbitant interest rates to more than 900 local police officers and civil servants in Cape Town. He admitted lending the cash but insisted that he had done nothing wrong. He is also thought to have profited from contracts to supply aviation fuel in various African countries."

On August 25, 2004, Thatcher was arrested at 10 Dawn Avenue, his thatch-roofed mansion in Constantia, a posh suburb of Cape Town, South Africa. He was charged later that day with contravening two sections of South Africa's Foreign Military Assistance Act , which bans South African residents from taking part in any foreign military activity. The charges related to "possible funding and logistical assistance in relation to [an] attempted coup in Equatorial Guinea" organised by Simon Mann. He was released on bail of 2 million Rand and spent a period of time under house arrest but later relocated to London to live with his widowed mother while his wife and children moved to the family's home in Highland Park, a well-monied section of her hometown, Dallas, Texas.

On November 24, the Cape High Court upheld a supoena from the South African Justice Ministry that requires him to answer under oath questions from Equatorial Guinean authorities regarding the alleged coup attempt. He was due to face questioning on November 25 regarding offences under the South African Foreign Military Assistance Act; however, these proceedings were later postponed until 8 April 2005. Ultimately, following a process of plea bargaining, Thatcher pleaded guilty to negligence in investing in an aircraft "without taking proper investigations into what it would be used for". On January 13 he was fined three million rand (approximately $500,000) and received a four-year suspended jail sentence.

The coup scandal outraged Gordon Prentice, a Member of Parliament, who demanded that Sir Mark be stripped of his baronetcy. The title, which was created in 1990, has long nettled both social and political observers for its unconventional origins. Its creation was reportedly recommended to the Queen by Prime Minister John Major under considerable pressure from the recently retired Margaret Thatcher, who wanted her favorite child to inherit a title.

Sir Mark Thatcher has a twin sister, Carol. He inherited his baronetcy after the death of his father in 2003.

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Last updated: 05-07-2005 11:15:25
Last updated: 08-18-2005 06:08:22