Some see Stanford as a benefactor, others just another colonialist

February 18th, 2009 - 7:16 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Feb 18 (IANS) Cigar-smoking cricket tycoon Allen Stanford, three of whose companies are charged with massive fraud, is a fifth-generation Texan and resides in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands. He holds dual citizenship, having become a citizen of Antigua and Barbuda ten years ago.
The startling revelation of the magnitude of the fraud to the tune of $9 billion has shaken the counties as they are now bothered about their image as each has gained 50,000 pounds sterling of Stanford gratis for allowing English players to play in his winners-take-all Stanford Challenge match in the Caribbean.

Stanford’s grandfather, Lodis B Stanford, was a barber before opening an insurance company in the small town of Mexia at the height of the Great Depression.

Seventy-seven years later, the family business grew under the control of his grandson, Allen, into a financial services giant - reportedly handling $ 51 billion of assets.

It now appears to be in ruins, another victim of the biggest economic crisis since the 1930s.

Allen is in many ways a typical Texan: tall (6ft 4in), broad and affable.

Yet beneath the charm there is a steely businessman. After taking a finance degree, he worked for the still modest family company and made several hundred million dollars from buying cheap properties during a collapse in the Texas economy in the 1980s and selling them on at a steep profit, reports The Times.

He took over the business from his father in 1993 and, impatient with small-town life, expanded the developing wealth-management company into Mexico and Latin America. Antigua and Barbuda, gave him a Commonwealth knighthood for his patronage of the islands and where he is the largest employer after the Government, although 375 workers have recently been dismissed. Some see him as a benefactor, others as just another colonialist.

Besides cricket, Stanford Financial Group sponsors golf, tennis, polo and sailing events.

Stanford bank-rolled a winner-take-all $20 million Twenty20 match in November between England and a West Indies all-star team in Antigua, the first of five planned annual games worth a total $100 million.

Last summer he landed his helicopter on the Nursery Ground at Lord’s and wheeled out a box containing $20 million, which he offered to the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) as annual prize-money in a contest between his team and theirs.

Three years ago, when Stanford began to invest in West Indies domestic cricket. It was never clear whether Stanford’s own understanding of the game ran much deeper, but he certainly saw a way of making money from it.

He had already approached India and South Africa. The ECB may be embarrassed that it took the bait.

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