Michael Peagram is an investor, businessman and philanthropist previously involved with the chemicals industry and now resident in Monaco. He enjoyed a successful career in the chemicals field before investing twenty five percent into a chemicals company that was making a £3mn loss. He opened up new markets, performed a miracle turnaround and took the company to flotation in ‘93 before exiting in ‘98 with a substantial fortune, which was reported to be £37mil. With an intelligent and pragmatic style he attributes his success partly to luck. “All entrepreneurs say that.” He says with a modest smile. “It’s worth reading Six Thinking Hats by Edward de Bono. It says making money is about ability and luck.” He adds that practice also makes perfect and that “hard work, logic wisdom and the guts to grab an opportunity” are also important. He mentions the word inspiration last. “Inspiration is pointless, if you haven’t done basic research about who will buy your products. Businesses should make products and then make profit and that is it.”
Working with the church, Outward Bound Monaco, music, education, young people, the Duke of Edinburgh and Oxford charitable efforts, he says he moved to Monaco because he was advised to move offshore for five years. “People rarely do things for just pluses; there are usually minuses as well.” He still maintains a house in Oxford, England which is his home town and where his parents live. He has some business ventures but these are taking more of a back seat these days and philanthropy and hobbies such as tennis are moving to the fore.
An important part of his philanthropic efforts are for Outward Bound Monaco, which sends children on three week physical challenge courses. Supported by Prince Albert II, Mike pulled up his sleeves to pitch in and spearhead the involvement of Prince Andrew, The Duke of York. One effort saw Outward Bound Monaco organise a private dinner with both in attendance. Tickets were offered to those willing to pay a fee in the region of £5,000 to specifically benefit Outward Bound Monaco and generous donors contributed larger sums so that Outward Bound Monaco was able to send £100,000 to Outward Bound UK. This money helped refurbish their residential centres. Mike says this created a strong partnership between the two organisations, the two Princes and with young people from both countries. The event sold out and an additional cocktail reception was offered to allow a full compliment of Outward Bound supporters to attend. It was a resounding success and became a moment to be proud of for Mike and all at Outward Bound Monaco.
His personal efforts include donations “which I have an annual budget for” and hands-on administrative work and fundraising for the charity. Outward Bound Monaco aims to raise the quality of children’s lives and to provide them with inspiration and motivation to achieve great things themselves. Whilst the main drive of the work helps under privileged children, Mike argued strongly for allowing those from affluent backgrounds to also be included into the programme. He rightly points out that you can have as many problems if rich or poor, they are just different.
Asking if Mike was a killer business man in his day, he says “he was always fair.” Then tells a story. “At first all business plans and opportunities came to me for sign off, until I realised one day that the tables had turned. The ideas I picked were the ones that went on to be successful so staff ended up using me as a sounding board giving me more and more projects to look at.” He laughs and says. “I ended up doing lots of work.”
Thinking about the rise in philanthropic consultants applying ‘market forces’ to the implementation of charitable work, I ask if he buys into this return on investment style. It seems he does. “No charity I work with will ever be in a financial shambles.”
Although logic pervades in Mike’s scientist type personality, he admits to being a romantic at heart. Of his own values he says he prizes “winning with honour and playing by the rules.” Then thinks before finishes up by saying. “And not cheating.”