A healthcare entrepreneur who ranks among Britain’s richest people and whose company has had close ties to the government has handed a £5m donation to the Conservative Party – one of the biggest in its recent history.
Sky News has learnt that Frank Hester, founder and chief executive of The Phoenix Partnership (TPP), has given the Tories a seven-figure sum that will provide the party with a significant boost to its general election war-chest.
The sum is likely to be disclosed in the latest quarterly data on political donations, which is expected to be published by the Electoral Commission later this week.
Based in Leeds, TPP describes itself as “a leading global provider of healthcare technology”.
It says it provides “vital clinical IT services in… more than 2,600 GP practices”.
During the pandemic, it was reported to have won a six-figure contract to supply data on vaccine uptake levels.
Mr Hester, who was awarded an OBE in 2015 for services to healthcare, has accompanied ministers on several overseas trade missions.
In 2013, he travelled to India with David Cameron, the then prime minister, as part of what was Britain’s biggest-ever trade delegation.
“This trip is worth a lot of money to us – it’s invaluable,” Mr Hester reportedly told the Financial Times during the trip.
“Being with the PM and UK Trade and Investment means we [see] the right people.”
The following year, Jeremy Hunt, the then health secretary, visited TPP’s headquarters, saying: “Technology is the key to 21st century personalised healthcare, so it is great to see companies like TPP leading the way with new software that will put [care home] residents in control of their health.”
This year’s Sunday Times Rich List estimated Mr Hester’s wealth at £415m, ranking him in joint 321st place.
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Mr Hester’s donation is expected to be among a series of big payments disclosed in the latest Electoral Commission data.
In June, it emerged that the Egyptian-born billionaire Mohamed Mansour had handed the Tories £5m, which was reportedly the party’s biggest single donation since 2001.
The hedge fund founder Alan Howard gave £1m to the Tories earlier this year, Sky News revealed.
The party’s financial fortunes had to a degree fallen hostage to the splintering of Brexit sentiment in the parliamentary party and among its donors.
Boris Johnson was perceived as a leader with enormous financial pulling power, with wealthy donors under his leadership including the likes of Lord Bamford, the JCB tycoon, and Lord Cruddas, the CMC Markets founder.
However, both peers have lost their enthusiasm for funding the party since Mr Johnson’s departure, leaving its treasurers to seek alternatives to fill the funding gap.
It emerged earlier this year that Labour had also landed a new multimillion pound donation, from Gary Lubner, a former boss of Autoglass.
He told the FT that he wanted Sir Keir Starmer to lead the Labour Party into government and remain there for “a long time”.
The newspaper said he was expected to give around £5m to help fund its election campaign.
A Conservative Party spokesman declined to comment, while TPP did not respond to a series of emailed enquiries.
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