One person who has never shown much interest in corporate correctness is Her Majesty the Queen — but if you had been able to buy shares in 1952 in the royal ‘firm’ of which she has been executive chairman these past 63 and a half years, you would have made out like Warren Buffett. When she succeeded her father, the royal finances were not a matter for public discussion: the first estimate of her private wealth, at £60 million, did not appear in the press until 1969. More recently, a consultancy called Brand Finance came up with a figure of £44 billion as the value of the entire monarchical enterprise, made up of £18 billion of ‘tangible assets’ (a small portion of them privately owned, the rest attached to the job) and £26 billion of ‘intangibles’ representing ‘the value of the uplift to the economy attributable to the monarchy’.
Though any conventional company would have made her retire 20 years ago, there can be no doubt that the Queen has been a brilliant manager of her own brand (only Sir Richard Branson stands comparison) and a sharp-eyed steward of the royal asset portfolio. Comparisons with Sir Terry Leahy’s reign at Tesco, or Lord Browne of Madingley’s heyday as ‘the Sun King of the oil industry’ at BP, are not entirely far-fetched — because the clear problem now is what happens next.
The Prince of Wales’s eccentricities and extravagances have been cushioned all these years by the wealth of the Duchy of Cornwall. His brothers are even less businesslike, and if there were choice in the matter, royal financial advisers would surely be recommending the steely Princess Royal for promotion to the top job. Still, be thankful there‘s no headhunter involved, searching for an eye-catching appointee from outside.
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