20 questions with leading clean technology investor Ben Goldsmith
The Steeple Times shares “wit and wisdom”. What’s your guiding force?
My love of the natural world.
“Don’t get even, get medieval” is, in our humble opinion, a great motto. What’s yours?
“Behold the turtle. He sticks his neck out”.
Kerry Katona was considered unacceptable in 2007. Who or what is unacceptable in 2013?
Wearing lycra in public.
Tony Blair misses being Prime Minister. What do you miss most in your life?
Happy times with my ex-wife Kate.
What might you swap all your wealth for?
Real power to effect change in the fight to protect and restore the global environment.
Donald Trump was once a case of: “If you owe the bank a thousand, they close you down; but if you owe the bank a billion, you own the bank”. What’s your view on the banking crisis?
I believe in free and fair markets. Governments should provide the regulatory framework within which good businesses will thrive and bad ones will fail. Banking regulators didn’t understand what bankers were up to, so the framework was defunct. And governments provided near-complete underwriting of banks’ liabilities, so the banks knew their reckless behaviour had no downside. So they became increasingly reckless. These two factors led to disaster.
What phrase or word do you most loathe?
In the UK, some people consider charity to “begin at home”. What’s your view and what causes do you personally support?
The over-riding challenge we face today is to bring an end to the ruination of the natural systems on which we depend for everything. So I find it odd that less than 3% of total philanthropic giving in the UK last year was directed towards environmental causes. Almost anything else is rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
The judge in Law Abiding Citizen states: “I can pretty much do whatever I want” before being blown up whilst answering her mobile phone. What’s your view on the appropriate use of such devices?
It’s not really on to play with your phone, distracted, whilst with other people, over lunch, or in a meeting. We all do it though.
If you could fill a carriage on The Orient Express, who would be your fellow passengers?
My family. My best friends. A few random interesting people. But I much prefer a holiday, an adventure, with family and friends.
If you were unfortunate enough to end up on death row, what would be your last meal and where would you eat it?
A big bowl of spaghetti bolognese covered with grated parmesan. I’d have it on the street terrace at the front of my brother Robin Birley’s new club at 5 Hertford Street, Mayfair.
What time is it acceptable to consume the first drink of the day?
I hardly drink in the daytime. It knocks me out. So, for me, 6pm or so.
A Negroni, a martini or a cup of tea?
Cup of tea.
Whose parties do you enjoy the most and why?
Simon Hammerstein. He created The Box in NYC and in London, and throws the best parties anywhere.
Who is the most positive person you know?
My 7-year old son Frankie. He is even more of a wildlife and cricket enthusiast than me.
What’s your most guilty pleasure?
Spread betting on a test match.
If a tattoo were to sum you up, what would it be of?
Oh God knows.
If you were a car, what marque would you be?
Cilla Black presented Surprise, Surprise. Tell us the most surprising thing about you.
I first went to America at the age of 30. I had my first child at 22. I’m actually quite a nifty medium-pace in-swing bowler, in spite of an abysmal sporting record at school.
What’s currently sitting on your mantelpiece?
A photo of my mother and father. The skull of a turtle I found on a beach in Mexico. Some school photos of my children. An ashtray from a restaurant I once owned – called Drones Club, on St George Street.
Ben Goldsmith is a leading clean technology investor and co-founder of WHEB, a specialist green investment business.
Follow him on Twitter here.
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