“Oleg, it’s obviously great news that you have not been sanctioned”

Emails from the archive of Rutherford Hall, critical communications strategist

From: rutherford @ monkwellstrategy

Dear Oleg

If only you had come to us sooner. At Monkwell, we offered a complete package – the oligarch special – perfectly tailored to your needs. A membership of Quintessentially, dinners with cabinet ministers, a hotline to Carter-Ruck and even a pathway to a peerage if you don’t mind losing a fortune in the media. It also came with important arts patronages. The museums are gagging for cash. So are the universities, and the due diligence is so light touch it’s positively ethereal. The Oleg School of something that absolutely isn’t immoral was just a banker’s draft away.

But it’s more complex now. It’s obviously great news that you have not been sanctioned and we want to keep it that way, but even so, I would hit the cash points fast while you are still in the clear. You don’t want to be caught without at least a few hundred grand of walking around money.

Ordinarily I’d advise an aggressive push with ministers but we don’t really want the attention it might attract. The good news is that your business is less well known here. But have you considered rebranding Potashneft? How about calling it K?

There’s no chance you could actually be Ukrainian, is there? It could really help. Georgian also works. Failing that, we need to manage perceptions. Maybe – and I know the complications back home – we can build traction for the idea that you were actually some kind of dissident. I don’t suppose you know Navalny? As we used to say when I worked in Downing Street, a blank canvas can hide a hidden story.

I have to level with you, we are being forced to limit our exposure to Russian clients, but assuming we are still able to do business, I’d direct you to our new 360-degree, high-net-worth package. It’s what we would call the Oligarch 2.0 service if using the phrase 2.0 wasn’t about as 1.0 as you can get (and oligarch not quite the nom du jour). It is aimed at, shall we say, other nationalities these days, but the principle holds.

While the old plan was all about launching you in society, fancy soirées, naming rights on new wings of the National Gallery, parties with Elton John, the new strategy is the opposite. It is low profile; building up a track record of unglamorous, good works, ideally outside London – Tees Valley seems popular with Tories. You dress down, drive family saloons and meet no one more fêted than a council committee chair or the head of fundraising for the local hospital, as long as that hospital is the Wellington. None of this is made public now, but we create a backstory of you as a shy, generous pillar of the community. The kind of chap Britain wants. And don’t worry, the celebs aren’t going anywhere. Even if we lose the Rocketman there are plenty of others in orbit.

BTW given the current situation we are asking for the annual fee upfront. I’m sure you understand.

Yours in solidarity,


Find me on Strava: King of the Mountain; Sydenham Hill. PR: Horniman Loop 12 mins

Hi Oleg

Thanks for the reply. No, I really don’t think you should offer up the Lady K as the new royal yacht. For one thing, it will draw attention to yourself. And, for another the Prince of Wales doesn’t care for Swarovski interiors. Visibility is unhelpful, so you might also want to rethink the house near Kensington Gardens.



Find me on Strava: King of the Mountain; Sydenham Hill. PR: Horniman Loop 12 mins

Dear Oleg

Of course I’m not telling you to move to a flat in Peckham, though Peckham Rye is on the way up. But right now money talks, and four houses knocked together in South Ken with an upstairs swimming pool for those days when the basement is just too far, are not the smart play. There’s nothing wrong with a large house with a pool somewhere as long as that somewhere is basically nowhere. Once you are outside the M25 you can have a flash pad and people will think you are a footballer. And no planning permission fights. The word annexe is not your friend at the moment.



Find me on Strava: King of the Mountain; Sydenham Hill. PR: Horniman Loop 12 mins

One last thing: we are trialling a few new terms. Oligarch is clearly out. Billionaire and plutocrat aren’t great and I know millionaire may be a little déclassé for you. So in future comms, we’ll call you a businessman and philanthropist, before dropping the businessman. I mention this in case you have any thoughts on the philanthropy you fancy. I don’t need an urgent answer. (Children are good.) As we used to say in Downing Street – a blank canvas is only fine if it’s you holding the paintbrush.

Messages recovered by Robert Shrimsley

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