It’s not what you know. It’s not who you know. It’s what you know about who you know. That’s the principle that unites all great connectors. They know people, yes, of course they do — but they know them for a reason. A shared project, a genuine interest, a night-gone-raucous, a mutual passion. Their connections aren’t simply a lifeless list of blank names in a rolodex — they are a rich catalogue of interlocking stories, stacked thick like shades and textures on an oil painting.
London, of course, is the ultimate canvas. It is the only world capital that can truly claim to be a leading light in culture, finance, business, and society all at once — and so every connection on its streets is subject to a sort of exponential effect. The old joke runs that in London you’re never more than six feet from a rat. Really, though, you’re never more than a few paces from a truly connected person. Here are the 50 best exponents of this rarefied art.
Justin Byam Shaw, businessman
Chairman of the Evening Standard and The Independent, Justin Byam Shaw is the man behind some of the most widely read newspapers and online news outlets in the country. Understated and humble but deeply influential, Byam Shaw is most likely to be found swirling around media, political and business circles.
Ben Elliot, businessman
Originally best known as the founder of Quintessentially, one of the world’s premier concierge services, Elliot is now just as highly regarded for his political nous as his soft power. A Co-Chairman of the Conservative Party, with deep-held links to the Goldsmith clan, he is also a passionate and powerful advocate for philanthropic causes such as the Felix Project.
Mark Carney, banker
After stepping down from his all-seeing-eye role at the Bank of England in October last year, Carney has gone on to become Head of Impact Investing at Brookfield Asset Management in the private sector. He’s still plugged into the world of public power, however (he is now the United Nations special envoy for climate action and finance, for example), and remains a firm favourite of Boris Johnson, who named him finance advisor for the UK presidency of the COP26 United Nations Climate Change conference last year.
James Forsyth, journalist
The political editor at the Spectator and a commentator for The Times, Forsyth has consistently produced some of the best insider takes and scoops in the past year — and is plugged firmly into the Whitehall nexus.
Sadiq Khan, politician
The once-cushty job of Mayor of London has taken on a new tone in the pandemic. But Khan has risen to the challenge with purpose and conviction. A powerful force at regional and national level, he is a tireless worker and a brilliant collaborator.
Boris Johnson, politician
The Prime Minister — but not as you know it. Boris has approached the top job with a boosterish informality (Covid notwithstanding) and a web of connections that spans London’s various media, press and political chumocracies. Many dubious friends, but ones who are no less powerful for it. And — for now at least — seems safe among the Tory high command, too.
Roland Rudd, PR executive
As the founder of one of the biggest financial consultancy firms in the country — Finsbury — Rudd is a stalwart of almost every board you could think of, and has been moving and shaking his way through the world of finance for years — ever since he was a reporter for the Financial Times.
Fraser Nelson, journalist
Nelson is the man running the show at The Spectator, and is widely regarded and praised as being one of the most influential and most talented editors working today. Under his command, the magazine has once-again become a bastion of political and social commentary, while the circulation figures have reached new heights — a steady hand in these confused times of fake news and ailing print media.
Dave Benett, photographer
Never underestimate the influence of a photographer. The ever-present Benett has shot everyone from Prince to Princess Diana, and can be found shooting away at any party worth attending. The snapper knows everyone who’s anyone on first name terms, and they know just how important he is to their success. (And if he levels his lens at you, that’s a pretty good indicator that you’ve made it yourself.)
Robert Peston, journalist
Robert Peston shot to stratospheric fame thanks to his groundbreaking coverage of the financial crisis in 2008 (most notably his scoop on the crumbling of Northern Rock). Since then, he has written several political biographies, founded the charity Speakers for Schools and become a mainstay of any political conversation, where his direct yet personable style helps him cut to the heart of the most important stories.
Robin Birley, businessman
Birley is Mayfair’s panjandrum of taste and the man behind some of London’s most successful and chummy members club. A doyen of clubland for decades, the savvy businessman launched the much-adored 5 Hertford Street in 2013 (the second home of the true London gentleman) and now Oswald’s — a decadent, beautiful dining room for wine aficionados over on Albemarle Street.
Richard Caring, businessman
The other mainstay of London’s club scene, Caring’s portfolio is truly vast. Jewels in the crown of Caprice Holdings (the entrepreneur’s behemothic holding group) include The Ivy, Annabel’s and Mark’s Club, making him perhaps the biggest transformative force at the high end of London’s hospitality scene. The far-reaching Caring brand was even dubbed the LVMH of the hospitality world by the late, great restaurant critic A. A. Gill.
Nick Jones, businessman
Jones is the founder and mastermind behind the much-imitated global juggernaut Soho House. With outposts springing up all over the world, the businessman’s network spreads just as far — and he is praised by the great and the good of the artistic community wherever the members-only club can be found. Kind and connected.
Kim Jones, fashion designer
The man at the helm of Dior Homme (and now Fendi), Kim Jones has been an earnest and deeply talented force in fashion for nearly two decades. In that time he has worked and collaborated with some of the biggest names in fashion, art and design — and continues to court a dense and glitzy set of admirers from all corners of culture and business.
Joe Phelan, consultant and advisor
Joe Phelan is a true cultural diplomat: a geopolitical consultant and communications expert with a quite extraordinary contact book and a devastating charm. He sits on the board of The Photographers’ Gallery and the Conservative Arts and Creative Industries Forum, and was formerly a special advisor to the Secretary General of the Commonwealth. But mostly he works with heads of state, CEOs and high net worth individuals on their reputation management and longterm strategy. Put simply: in good times or in bad, in crisis or in celebration, from Kyoto to Capetown — Phelan is your man.
Edward Enninful, journalist
The editor-in-chief of British Vogue, Enninful has been at the forefront of the fashion game since he was just 18-years-old. He started out as the fashion director of i-D magazine — not something every teenager could do — and has gathered a coterie of influential friends on his journeys around the publishing world. His powerful work transforming Vogue for the modern age — and restoring the magazine cover to a platform for change and originality — cannot be understated.
George Osborne, editor and consultant
George Osborne has been earmarked for success ever since his early days in the conservative party, where he acted as a special advisor to various cabinet ministers and a collaborator with then-leader William Hague. It was his alliance with David Cameron, however, that propelled him into the political stratosphere, most notably as Chancellor of the Exchequer during a turbulent time for Britain’s economy. Unlike Cameron, however, Osborne’s sway has not waned since leaving top-tier politics — he has edited the Evening Standard, acted as chair of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, and was a part-time consultant to investment bank BlackRock. Now, however, he has jumped fully into the private sector as a partner at investment bank Robey Warshaw. Time to make some serious money, one feels.
Sir Paul Smith, fashion designer
A friend to Gentleman’s Journal, not to mention one of the most recognisable, long-standing faces in the fashion world, Smith has had a invaluable impact on British style. His signature stripe has become an icon in itself, and his influence can be seen across, art, design, fragrance, and even his beloved sport of cycling. Nice guys finish first.
Jonathan Barnett, sports agent
Possibly the most successful football agent currently working, Barnett has a client list longer, more talented and more widespread than anyone else. In his current superstar crop, Gareth Bale and Jesse Lingard stand almost as tall in the sporting world as his first client, cricketer Brian Lara.
Eddie Hearn, sports promoter
Hearn has organised some of the biggest boxing matches Britain has ever seen, in part thanks to his affiliation with boxing wunderkind, Anthony Joshua. The managing director of Matchroom Sport, a company his father founded in 1980s, Hearn is a heavyweight in his own right.
Seb Coe, olympian
He may have won two Olympic golds back in the day, but Lord Coe more recently shone as the mastermind behind the London 2012 Games and is now the president of the IAAF and the most well-connected man in the world of athletics. There is very little on or off the track that Coe isn’t up to speed with.
Zac Goldsmith, politician
A softly spoken and conscientious figure in both local and national politics, Goldsmith narrowly missed out on his bid to be Mayor of London in 2016. An environmentalist and journalist, Goldsmith is as well connected through his own endeavours as through his family links.
Jay Jopling, gallerist
One of the leading lights in modern art dealing, Jopling has worked closely with some of the most powerful and bankable artists of his generation, ever since he opened up his first gallery on Duke Street in 1993. Since that early triumph, Jopling has been committed to challenging the establishment of Old Masters dealers, and breathing fresh life into the world of art.
Jeremy King, restaurateur
As one of the biggest names in the hospitality industry, Jeremy King has opened some of the most widely recognised and most booked-out restaurants in the capital with his longtime partner Chris Corbin. He has done many great things, often with flair and style and a novelist’s eye — but mostly he has restored civility, laughter and a nostalgic charm to London’s dining rooms.
Nick Grimshaw, broadcaster
Though he was the Radio 1 Breakfast Show for six years (and endured all of the early mornings that entails), Grimshaw still managed to keep his enviable profile up in London’s fast-paced nightlife scene. Friends with everyone and instantly likeable, the DJ has long entertained the great and the good of the showbiz world with his characteristic flair and down to earth humour.
Geordie Greig, journalist
Greig holds the reins of the Daily Mail, arguably the most influential publication in the country. But his reach goes far beyond the press. A natural charmer and understated connector, Greig has remarkable soft power across business, the wider media landscape and the world of philanthropy. In 2005, The Observer even labelled Greig “Britain’s best-connected man”.
André Balazs, hotelier
A trusted hotel magnate and best friend to the globetrotting class, Balazs is the man behind celebrity hotspot Chiltern Firehouse and the party palazzo Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles, which he restored to its former Golden Era glory after buying it in 1990.
Sir Martin Sorrell, businessman
If you had founded the world’s largest PR and Advertising group, you’d have a pretty long contact list, too. Sorrell, founder of the far-reaching behemoth WPP plc, may have retired from the CEO role in 2018, but his influence in the fast-paced world of advertising, marketing and public relations will linger for decades to come. In May 2018, Sorrell launched S4 Capital, a new media, data and content business using $53m of his own money and a further $15m raised from investors. It has very quickly become a global powerhouse to rival his previous venture. Irrepressible.
Steve Varsano, entrepreneur
The founder of the Jet Business — that truly eye-catching aviation showroom down near Hyde Park Corner — Varsano has sent some of the world’s most influential people into orbit. But even without his famous business, the affable, exquisitely-dressed, honey-voiced American would be a true soft power heavyweight. A genuine entrepreneur and a gentleman.
Nicholas Coleridge, chairman
Chairman of Condé Nast Britain, The V&A Museum, Prince of Wales’ Campaign for Wool and the Gilbert Trust for the Arts, Nicholas Coleridge has his fingers in more pies than almost anyone else in the capital. Naturally, the debonair and immaculately tailored raconteur has a powerful network that spans media, business, fashion, the arts and philanthropy. His memoir, The Glossy Years, released at the end of 2019, is a juicy testament to his wide web of pals — and to his immortal knack for an anecdote.
Hugo Campbell-Davys, businessman
Campbell-Davys started Urbanologie, the invitation-only, luxury lifestyle app that helps the super wealthy get exactly what they want — when they want it. Many have already labelled him London’s best-connected man, due to the uncanny breadth of his relationships.
Brent Hoberman, businessman
After founding, floating and selling lastminute.com, Hoberman has done more for British entrepreneurship than perhaps any other figure (and he’s got the contact book to prove it). An angel investor, advisor and arch-strategist, the ingenious businessman has earned a CBE for his work in entrepreneurship.
Rufus Norris, theatre director
As the current director of the National Theatre, Norris has had a more storied career in the theatrical wings than almost anyone else in London. Soft power personified.
Guy Ritchie, director
Possibly one of the most talented and influential directors working in Britain right now, Ritchie has collaborated with the very best that Hollywood has to offer. After a successful series of cult British classics — including Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch — actors now clamour to work with the boy from Hatfield. Has defined a cinematic style all of his own — and pours a decent pint, too.
Charles Vallance, businessman
O2, First Direct, Sony, BMW, Land Rover, Coca-Cola, Heineken, Dyson and Compare the Market — just some of the companies whose reputation and bottom line Charles Vallance has improved. His advertising company VCCP has helped these brands and launched their memorable (and profitable) campaigns with his advertising nous and strategic intelligence.
George Bamford, businessman
The latest businessman in the JCB dynasty, Bamford’s eponymous watch company has created some of the most distinct timepieces on the market through its high level of bespoke customisation. In 2015, Bamford diversified when he teamed up with his mother, who already ran a successful women’s grooming business, by creating a line of male products under the Bamford Grooming Department moniker. Diversity of this kind has boosted the entrepreneur’s stock and bolstered his bulging contact book. Much adored and endlessly energetic.
Alan Yentob, television executive
Holding the job of Creative Director at the BBC for 11 years meant Yentob was the strong centre of the country’s flagship media outlet. The man who got all your favourite shows past the bureaucratic mayhem of the Beeb, Yentob has a long list of powerful friends and collaborators across the creative industries.
Sam Branson, social entrepreneur
The son of Britain’s best-known entrepreneur, Sam Branson has clearly inherited his father’s passion for philanthropy (not to mention his boundless energy). But he’s not been one to rest on his laurels, either. Now married to Isabella Calthorpe (with whom he’s formed something of a power couple), Branson is the brains behind Big Change films, a documentary studio with a social conscience.
Sir Rocco Forte, hotelier
Forte is a hotelier extraordinaire, and knows more about the hospitality trade than perhaps anyone else in the industry. The proprietor of a raft of notable hotels — including Brown’s Hotel in London, the Villa Kennedy in Frankfurt and the Hotel Savoy in Florence — Forte has earned many friends and admirers in very high places indeed.
David Linley, designer and businessman
One of the premier furniture designers in London, Linley’s elegant yet masculine aesthetic has gilded some of the finest homes in the country (and afforded him a powerful set of admirers in the process). The Queen’s nephew, Linley has deep roots in the royal court and beyond.
Lionel Barber, journalist
The editor of the Financial Times from 2005 to 2020, Barber rose to the top thanks to his reputation as one of the hardest working, most courteous and most rigorous journalists to ever work in the city. A keen cricketer and wonderful raconteur, his memoir, released at the end of last year, must surely soon become an academic text on Fleet Street.
Evgeny Lebedev, businessman
The Russian-British owner of The Independent, Evening Standard and London Live, Lebedev is known throughout London’s intermingled business and social circles as a man of influence and good taste. His parties (whether in private or for the likes of the Evening Standard Theatre Awards) are the thing of legend, and he is admired for his impassioned defence of quality journalism and print media and animal rights. He’s very close to Boris Johnson, too — and is the first ever Russian elevated to the House of Lords.
Matthew Freud, PR executive
Described by PRWeek as “the most influential PR professional in the UK,” Matthew Freud founded his eponymous firm in 1985, and has been at the very, very top of the industry ever since, guiding public perception and opinion with precision and aplomb. Taciturn and brilliant.
Ewan Venters, businessman
Venters is the former CEO of Fortnum & Mason, one of the most decadent and delicious department stores to ever open its turquoise doors, and current CEO of Hauser & Wirth. An amiable and charismatic charmer, Venters has a wide group of friends and professional collaborators.
Jonnie Goodwin, financier
The Financial Times labelled Goodwin as “one of London’s best-connected media dealmakers”, which is an accurate summary of the financier’s power and network. A founding partner at Lepe Partners, an independent merchant bank working in new media and technology sectors, he now earns his crust as a VC at Alvarium. With Brent Hoberman, Goodwin co-founded Founders Forum, the all-powerful network of digital entrepreneurs and notable investors. Formidable and charming.
Tyler Brûlé, journalist
Journalist and publisher Brûlé is best known as the brains behind Monocle, the mould-breaking print magazine that has spawned a host of imitators and defined an entire corner of modern urban living. The entrepreneur also launched Wallpaper in 1996, the influential style and design magazine, and has amassed an enviable array of accolades and contacts across the creative industries.
Henry Wyndham, auctioneer
Wyndham, the former chairman of Sotheby’s Europe, has been rightfully dubbed “the best auctioneer in the business” — and he’s the man you want holding the gavel if you ever put an heirloom up for auction. Unfortunately for the great bidding public, the storied orator is now retired — but his connections remain invaluable, and he nows runs Clore Wyndham, a fine art advisory on Bruton Street in Mayfair.
The Reuben Brothers, businessmen
The Reuben Brothers’ newest project is to revitalise the formidable In and Out Club on Piccadilly into a luxury hotel — a bauble that will added to their already glittering portfolio in Mayfair and beyond. Publicity shy, but friends with the real string pullers of this world.
Paddy Harverson, journalist and PR exec
After rising through the ranks at the Financial Times, Harverson made the jump up north to become the Director of Communications for Manchester United during their most successful period under Sir Alex Ferguson. After dealing with the princes of the Premier League, Harverson moved to become Communications Secretary to the Prince of Wales during one of the most turbulent times in modern royal history. Then, after nine years at Kensington Palace, he hopped into the private sector to become a Managing Partner of Milltown Partners LLP, the renowned yet secretive reputation and public relations manager.
Juan Santa Cruz, restaurateur
Owner of two of London’s hottest restaurants, Isabel’s and Casa Cruz, Juan Santa Cruz has risen to the top of the hospitality game through his exacting eye, wonderful flair, and irrepressible charm. Next stop? Manhattan, where he’ll open a gorgeous club and restaurant in an Upper East Side townhouse.
Pierre LaGrange, financier
Credit: Tom Cockram
A financier and entrepreneur with an exacting eye for both business and art, LaGrange first made his name as one of the most successful managers in the hedge fund boom of the 90s. Today, the Belgian businessman is a well-known and deeply admired presence across the financial world, Hollywood and the art scene — not to mention a serious player down on Savile Row, where he has transformed the fortunes of the much-loved Huntsman tailors.
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