Sir Chris Hohn: the man who earned £1 million a day

The hedge fund manager paid himself Britain’s biggest salary in 2020: a staggering £343 million. But does he embody the banker’s bonus run wild, or something more?

In 2020, a year when many were feeling the sting of the global Covid pandemic and scrimping by on furlough, Sir Chris Hohn, a hedge fund manager, paid himself a daily salary 9,000 times greater than the average UK salary and 1,700 times greater than Boris Johnson’s yearly wage packet.

While Johnson did little to deserve a Christmas bonus, Hohn’s earnings are on another level entirely. At £940,000 per day, the hedge fund manager’s pay packet was stratospheric. Otherworldly. The thing of fantasy. 

Hohn’s total £343m payday is believed to be the largest annual amount ever paid to a single person in Britain and comes after his Children’s Investment fund (TCI) recorded a 66% jump in profit during the previous fiscal year. 

The dividends payout is unlikely to affect TCI’s balance. The fund – which is 100% owned by Hohn – currently holds total shareholder funds of $1.94 billion (or £1.4 billion). 

Having started out in private equity, Hohn went on to manage the Perry Capital hedge fund, earning a reported £75 million over his two plus years with the company. During this time he earned a reputation as one of the most aggressive investors in the City and on Wall Street and was reportedly well-known for picking boardroom rights. 

Hohn stepped out on his own, establishing the Children’s Investment fund in 2003. The fund took its name from The Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) which Hohn had also set up, with his now ex-wife Jamie Cooper-Hohn. 

The charity works to improve the lives of children growing up in poverty in developing countries and is just one of Hohn’s charitable endeavours; he’s also the largest supporter of climate change activists Extinction Rebellion. 

“Humanity is aggressively destroying the world with climate change and there is an urgent need for us all to wake up to this fact,” Hohn has said.

Initially, CIFF received an annual portion of TCI’s profits and donations. But, beginning in 2012, CIFF and TIC were split up with donations to the charity no longer contractual, but discretionary. 

Despite the split, charity is, apparently, the purpose of Hohn’s life, as he claimed during his 2014 divorce from Jamie Cooper-Hohn. His decision to give his wife of 17 years just 25% of his fortune was in part because: “My life is actually about charity…I learned very early on you cannot take money with you. It does not bring you happiness.”

His dream, he said, had always been to become a philanthropist and he required money to do that. His wife, presumably, felt liberated by her pay out, and consoled by Hohn’s philosophy that “[money] does not buy you happiness.”

Despite this, the divorce reached the High Court with Cooper-Hohn eventually being awarded 36% – or $530 million (or £382 million) – of Hohn’s fortune. 

With £940,000 to burn through each day just in 2020 alone, it’s unlikely Hohn feels the sting. But, how does his remarkable and record-setting payout to himself compare to the biggest bonuses in banking’s history? 

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