March 04, 2007 -- AP LONDON – Prime Minister
Tony Blair, who plans to retire from office this year, will have the chance to
mingle with some of the United States' richest philanthropists at a fundraiser
in June, an art publication reported Sunday.
The Art Newspaper said patrons who paid at least $25,000 to attend a New York benefit in May for Britain's Tate Gallery were being invited to meet Blair and his wife, Cherie, at the prime minister's Downing Street residence on June 16.
The benefit is being organized by American Patrons of Tate, the gallery's U.S. fundraising arm.
The Art Newspaper said those who had already bought tickets included the fashion designer Calvin Klein; Richard Fuld, chief executive of the investment bank Lehman brothers; and Mexican telecoms tycoon Carlos Slim Helu
Richard Hamilton, director of the American Patrons of Tate, told the publication that Blair “was thrilled to discover that Americans were supporting our fundraising gala in New York so he offered to host a drinks party.”
Blair's office said the prime minister was a supporter of the arts who hosted many fundraisers. It said the Tate event would not cost British taxpayers anything.
Still, the arrangement is likely to raise questions in Britain, where Blair's close relationship with wealthy figures such as media mogul Rupert Murdoch has sat uneasily with his Labour Party's blue-collar roots.
Blair announced in September that he would step down within the year, but he has not named a date. Most expect him to stay at least until May, when he will have served 10 years in office.
With four galleries around Britain, the Tate is one of the country's biggest tourist attractions. Its Tate Modern site alone attracts 4 million visitors a year.