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One can only help but wonder how Tony Blair really felt when watching his millennial son Euan, 38 — a previous cause of public embarassment when he was found “drunk and incapable” by police in Leicester Square after his GCSEs — receiving an MBE from the Queen, just six months after his own knighthood.
Was that the moment the former Prime Minister realised his success risked being overshadowed by his eldest son, who ignored his famous father’s pro-higher education policy and made his millions encouraging millennials not to go to university? Or did that realisation come nine months before, when Euan’s fortune was estimated at £160m, three times more than his own?
Either way, Tony Blair, 69, is likely to have been feeling pride mixed in with a hint of intimidation this week as news was announced that his eldest child was tipped to become a billionaire, after Multiverse, the Google-backed education startup he founded six years ago, reached unicorn status and a valuation of £1.35 billion. No wonder the tech founder and his wife, venture capitalist Suzanne Ashman, were able to award themselves a £22m, five-storey west London townhouse last month, complete with an “iceberg basement”, swimming pool and a lift for his fleet of expensive cars. The palatial seven-bedroom pad is reportedly more than double the value of his father’s £10m London pad.
So how has he done it? In short: by encouraging millennials not to go to university - in direct contradiction to his father’s promise to help half of young adults get a degree in 1999. His startup, Multiverse, matches young people — many of whom grew up being told they’d grow up poorer than their parents — with apprenticeships at leading employers from Google to Depop after he admitted his own ancient history degree from Bristol “taught him nothing”.
“When you look at the 50 percent target, the belief was the more people go to university, the more people can access great opportunities, the more we would transition people fairly from full time education to full time employment,” Euan previously said of how his father’s vow had not delivered on social mobility, adding: “getting a degree does not guarantee you a job... even from supposedly top universities.”
His father is supportive. “At the time [university] felt like the best way to give people access to opportunity but it has not worked out like that,” the former PM once said, with Euan recently telling the Evening Standard that his father had congratulated him and is “hugely supportive of apprenticeships”.
The criticisms, however, have come in thick and fast. “Prime Minister’s son, educated at Bristol and Yale, who had his first quarter-million-pound house gifted to him at university, explains why other people don’t need to go to university,” was among sneering comments on Twitter after Euan’s MBE was announced. Others blamed his “influential parents” and “corruption in the honours system” — but is this fair?
Yes, Euan grew up in Downing Street and yes, he had a fair few advantages in life, but “lots of children-of-the-famous end up with no incentive, epic entitlement — think Mark Thatcher,” broadcaster Jeremy Vine pointed out earlier this month, saying he had “massive respect” for the eldest Blair, whose voice is reportedly uncannily similar to his father’s. “In terms of what the privileged can do with their lives, creating something that offers people good jobs, while delivering healthy tax returns, has to be towards the top of the list,” others have said on Twitter.
Euan’s Multiverse co-founder Sophie Adelman — who he met working at Morgan Stanley — agrees, suggesting that putting the companies’ success down to nepotism would be unfair. Her parents were successful doctors, but “I’m not sure they would say [my achievements were] down to them,” she told the Evening Standard this week, having moved on from Multiverse to co-found media company The Garden. “I like to think it was due to a lot of hard work, some lucky moments and a desire to have a positive impact on the world.
“Euan and the team are doing great things with the expansion into the US market and have changed the lives of thousands of apprentices through the opportunities they are creating at the world’s best companies. I am excited to see the next step in their journey and I will be cheering loudly from the sidelines.”
So what’s his journey been like so far? From his Downing Street childhood to his venture capitalist wife, this is how the eldest of the Blair dynasty made his millions (probably soon-to-be billions).
From Downing Street to Yale
Chances are you’ll have first glimpsed Euan Blair as a teenager standing on the steps of Downing Street with his parents and siblings. Pictures from his father’s time in office show him in a range of classic noughties outfits, from baggy shirts to goatee beards and shaggy teenage hair.
Growing up as Tony Blair’s eldest son seems to have done no harm in helping Euan launch himself into the working world. The lifelong Liverpool FC fan became head boy at school and went on to study ancient history at Bristol University before embarking on a masters in international relations at Yale in the US.
It was while he was at Bristol that his mother Cherie famously helped him onto the property ladder for the first time, buying him a £265,000 flat to live in while he studied and a second one to rent out.
He went on to do an internship in US Congress before joining investment bank Morgan Stanley’s graduate programme, where he met his future co-founder: Cambridge and Stanford graduate Sophie Adelman, who was working in recruitment.
Euan wasn’t the only one of his siblings to graduate into a successful career. His brother Nicky, 36, has been a solicitor since 2012 with a £2.75 million home in north London, sister Kathryn, 34, is a top barrister with two homes in London and one in Buckinghamshire, and brother Leo, 22, is currently studying at Oxford. Clearly, Euan wasn’t able to dissuade his youngest sibling to swerve further education just yet.
Start(up) of a power couple
Euan’s Downing Street upbringing wasn’t just the background for his professional success, but it clearly played a role in his love life, too. In 2005 he was incorrectly romantically tied to former Labour MP Luciana Berger, who remains a close friend, but the following year he was introduced to his future wife, venture capitalist Suzanne Ashman, by former defence secretary Geoff Hoon, who had given Ashman a work experience placement.
Oxford PPE graduate Ashman, the daughter of motor racing entrepreneur Jonathan Ashman, and Blair were together for seven years before marrying in a lavish ceremony in Wooton Underwood in Buckinghamshire 2013 (the reception was held at the Blairs’ 17th century mansion in the area). She currently works as a partner at venture capital firm Local Globe and in 2017 she was named as a prominent European financier in Forbes’ 30 under 30 list.
Prior to purchasing his fancy new five-storey home, the couple reportedly lived in a £3.6 million townhouse in Marylebone, just round the corner from the co-working space in Marylebone where Blair runs his business.
Interviewers have described the baby-faced entrepreneur as “relaxed and charming” and like any self-respecting tech founder, he has a new look to go with it. The 37-year-old has been seen sporting a pair of hipster glasses over the year and once admitted to doing a Mark Zuckerberg and wearing a rotating wardrobe of branded White Hat sweatshirts, claiming he had them in “different colours, so I can wear a different one every day”.
The billion-dollar idea
Today, Euan is reportedly “more at home in Silicon Valley than Downing Street” - and like many tech founders, his success is proof that making millions can often be down to having one bright idea and running with it. In 2016 he and Adelman set up White Hat, now rebranded to Multiverse, with the idea of connecting bright school leavers with appetising apprenticeships at top employers.
Since then it has matched more than 5,000 apprentices with top employers and tripled its headcount to 600 staff, including in a newly-launched New York office and operations in Boston, Seattle, Atlanta, Phoenix, the Bay Area, Dallas and Chicago. Facebook, Google, Depop, Bloomberg and Morgan Stanley are among the 300 or so leading companies Multiverse has partnered with so far and Blair says several young people have even turned down places at Oxford to join the scheme.
Business has continued to grow in recent years - and fast. This week it was reported that Multiverse had reached billion-dollar “unicorn” status after raising £175 million in funding this year.
The start-up is now valued at £1.35 billion, up from a £164 million valuation since January, and Euan is now estimated to have a paper fortune in the tens of millions thanks to reportedly owning between 25 to 50 per cent of the company’s shares.
For Euan, the pandemic has only bolstered his belief that too many people are choosing university. He says his own degree “taught him nothing” and thinks the rise in remote teaching caused by Covid has only lessened higher education’s appeal. “Getting a degree does not guarantee you a job... even from supposedly top universities,” he said recently at the Evening Standard’s London Rising series.
Clearly, young people and their parents are listening: a YouGov poll published last year found that 42 per cent of people thought that an apprenticeship was a better preparation than university for the future — seven times the number who believed a degree was the best start to working life.
“Over the last few years, the sort of people applying to do apprenticeships has changed quite a lot. You’ve had private schools really embrace it and see an opportunity,” Blair recently said of those changing attitudes, explaining how apprenticeships have started to pass “the middle-class dinner party test”.
His startup has also been praised for prioritising social mobility. 53 per cent of Multiverse’s apprentices are people of colour and 36 per cent come from under-resourced communities.
The company has launched a recruitment drive with rappers including Tinie Tempah and Ms Banks to raise awareness about apprenticeships among more disadvantaged students, with concert tickets offered in return for attending a career workshops.
So what’s next? Since launching a New York office last year, Euan says his next plan is to continue expanding in America. If his success in the UK is anything to go by, achieving unicorn status and becoming three times richer than his father could be just the beginning.