Scottish entrepreneur Michelle Mone, who has been a Lady and Baroness in the House of Lords since 2015, has been accused of racism after a WhatsApp exchange from 2019 surfaced in which Mone reportedly called a man of Indian heritage a “waste of a white man’s skin”.
The allegations, reported by The Guardian on Thursday, have been denied by Glasgow-born and bred Baroness Michelle Mone – who rose to prominence after founding lingerie company Ultimo in the late nineties.
But questions are still being asked over who Michelle Mone is, how she came to be a Conservative peer in the House of Lords and what Baroness Mone’s net worth is.
Here’s everything you need to know about Michelle Mone, her wealth and career to date.
Who is Michelle Mone?
Michelle Georgina Mone OBE is a Scottish business entrepreneur and Conservative peer in the House of Lords.
She was born in Dennistoun, Glasgow on 8 October 1971 and grew up in the east end of the city, leaving school without qualifications at 15-years-old.
In 1996, she founded the lingerie company Ultimo, along with MJM International Ltd, with her former husband Michael Mone.
Mone has previously described her upbringing in Glasgow as giving her “balls of steel”, telling Michael Malone for his 2012 book profiling Scottish entrepreneurs, Carnegie’s Call: "I thought it was normal to go to the local swimming baths to get a wash two or three times a week.”
In 2014, Mone sold her 80% stake in Ultimo, which went bust in 2018, and was appointed to the House of Lords as Baroness Mone by David Cameron to lead a review into supporting business start-ups in areas of poverty across the UK.
In 2018, she launched two businesses in the form of mentoring and lifestyle app, Connect 2 Michelle Mone, offering “advice, guidance and inspiration” for those looking to take their lives “to the next level”, and ‘tokenised venture capital fund’ Equi Global Ltd.
In the same year, it was revealed that Baroness Mone’s absence rate from the House of Lords was 88%, with Mone attending just 19 days out of a possible 157 at the House of Lords in total.
She has also maintained an active interest in cryptocurrency.
What has Michelle Mone been accused of?
According to a report in The Guardian on Thursday, Baroness Mone has been accused of sending a racist and abusive WhatsApp message to a man of Indian heritage following a yacht crash in 2019, which took place off the coast of Monaco and saw one crew member killed as a friend’s yacht collided with that of Mone’s husband after a day of socialising.
The paper claimed to have seen screenshots of a WhatsApp exchange in which Baroness Mone called the man “a waste of a man’s white skin”, with the message in question reportedly the subject of a complaint sent to the House of Lords Standards Commissioner Martin Jelley in August 2021.
Baroness Mone has denied sending the racist and abusive messages, with a representative reportedly telling The Guardian initially that she was “100% not a racist” as "Baroness Mone and her husband have built over 15 schools in Africa in the past three years.”
A further statement later added: “[Baroness Mone] is not prepared to comment on the messages unless and until their authenticity has been confirmed but Baroness Mone, in any event, very strongly denies that she is a racist, a sexist or that she has a lack of respect for those persons genuinely suffering with mental health difficulties.”
It also stated that it was “as illogical as it is inconceivable that she could or would have made such a comment or made it with the slightest racist intent” as, at the time, she had no knowledge that the complainant “was anything other than white British, as his appearance is 100% white, with a cut-glass English accent”.
The financial consultant who received the messages described himself to The Guardian as brown-skinned.
Prior to this incident, Baroness Mone had been accused of helping a Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) company win a £200 million Covid contract after being named among a list of politicians who referred companies to a controversial UK ‘VIP lane’ for Covid-19 contracts.
The allegations and any knowledge of a ‘VIP lane’ for fast track contract awarding were denied by Baroness Mone’s representatives amid Tory sleaze allegations.
What is Michelle Mone’s net worth?
Michelle Mone’s net worth is not precisely known, but is estimated to be in the region of £20 million or more.
One website listing Baroness or Lady Mone as a motivational speaker cited Mone’s in-person event speaking charges as between £20,000 to £25,000, and between £15,000 and £20,000 for virtual events.
Baroness Mone is also married to Scottish businessman and founder of the Knox Group of Companies, Douglas Barrowman – with the Knox Group worth an estimated £3 billion.