Business

Jacob Rees-Mogg: Brexiteer investment firm boss set to be Business Secretary

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acob Rees-Mogg has been appointed Business Secretary in the government of new Prime Minister Liz Truss, as the country heads towards a lengthy period of recession, presenting potential turmoil for firms and consumers.

The often-controversial figure will take the helm and work closely alongside new Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng.

Business leaders considered Mr Kwarteng to be a capable pair of hands as he tackled a raft of hefty challenges, ranging from supply disruption to rampant energy price inflation during his tenure as business secretary.

These challenges are showing no sign of letting up as Mr Rees-Mogg takes over at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

The hardline Brexiteer and Boris Johnson loyalist, who is a product of Eton and Trinity College, Oxford, has long lauded his own financial acumen.

Jacob Rees-Mogg with young people during a Conservative Party Conference (Stefan Rousseau/PA) / PA Archive

At seven years old, Mr Rees-Mogg invested £50 in the stock market, having been left the money by a distant cousin, he said in a recently unearthed 1982 clip from French TV.

The youngster, who was being driven in his father’s Rolls-Royce at the time, professed his love of money and how he enjoyed attending shareholder meetings.

Mr Rees-Mogg was brought up in a family steeped in the Conservative Party – his late father William Rees-Mogg was the editor of The Times newspaper for 14 years until 1981, before being made a life peer of the party seven years later.

His son was always open about his political ambitions but started his working life as an investment banker, with jobs in London and Hong Kong.

In 2007, he co-founded asset management firm Somerset Capital Management with a group of colleagues.

The firm currently manages about £6.9 billion worth of assets for institutions, including pension funds, from its bases in London and Singapore.

Mr Rees-Mogg stepped down as chief executive of the business when he was first elected a member of parliament for North East Somerset in 2010.

Jacob Rees-Mogg was a key figure in the Leave campaign (John Stilwell/PA) / PA Archive

The former Brexit Opportunities minister has been described as a “sleeping partner” by his co-founders in recent years.

He was most recently described as owning “less than 13%” of the business but disclosed plans to reduce his stake to 5% by 2027.

Last year he took roughly £600,000 in dividends from Somerset.

Throughout his political career, Mr Rees-Mogg has largely espoused free market views and called for de-regulation, which he referenced in his opposition to the European Union.

In 2013 he was criticised after expressing support for zero-hour contracts, which he said gave freedom and flexibility to some workers.

His “traditional” views also include opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage.

Most recently, Mr Rees-Mogg has courted controversy over his long-running campaign to encourage civil servants to stop working from home after the end of coronavirus restrictions.

He also condemned the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) after staff told bosses at the regulator that two days a week in the office is the most they can cope with.

Although this was greeted with anger by unions and opposition parties, it would be welcomed by many business and financial leaders he is set to meet over the coming months.

Mr Rees-Mogg, who was an opponent of a windfall tax on energy firms, will also come under scrutiny over his green credentials given the energy remit of his role.

He has previously warned against “climate alarmism” and said he wants his constituents to have cheap energy “rather more than I would like them to have windmills”.

Liz Truss has agreed to the UK’s 2050 net zero targets but the new Business Secretary is also expected to help lead her plans to re-start fracking for shale gas in the UK.

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