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Stratford's Tory hopeful, Lord Archer and a multi-million pound business that went bust; The failure of a firm set up by Nadhim Zahawi cost 100 people their jobs in Nuneaton: EXCLUSIVE.

Byline: LES REID

THE selection of Nadh who has past links to t graced former MP Je Archer, brought back d memories in one part Warwickshire.

A Nuneaton clothe manufacturer went bus in the late 1990s unde the part ownership o Mr Zahawi despite investments by Lord Archer.

Mr Zahawi, a Kurd, whose family fled Iraq when he was nine, went on to set up the successful YouGov opinion poll company and is in line to become the next MP for the Tory stronghold of Stratford.

But disastrous business dealings under Al len (Hinckley) Ltd le his then partner, lo businessman Kevin Hi facing bankruptcy. 13-year-old business lapsed with multi-m pound debts. About 1 were lost in Nuneat Hinckley.

Lord Archer went on out of the race to beco don Mayor in 2000 and for perjury and perve course of justice, after d had slept with a pros earlier libel case.

The relationship between Higgs, Zahawi and Archer ended in acrimony and a Sunday Times article by leading investigative reporter Nick Fielding in November, 1999.

We asked Mr Zahawi whether Stratford Conservative Association had been made aware of all his business links with Lord Archer.

The father-of-two said: "They knew about my connections with Jeffrey Archer. One of the things in business is also having failures. There's a company I have set up and failed in Allen (Hinckley) Ltd. I don't hide my failures."

Father-of-four Mr Higgs re-established himself to run a retail design consultancy. He said: "It's on the record what happened, but it is such a long time ago, and I am trying to put those horrendous times out of my mind."

Allen (Hinckley) Ltd was set up as a partnership in licensed clothing between London-based Mr Zahawi and Mr Higgs, after the pair had met through business dealings.

The factory of associated company RA Higgs (Ray Allen) Ltd in Tuttle Hill, Nuneaton, and a Hinckley factory, specialised in clothing with brand names including Warner Brothers, World Cup '98 and Teletubbies.

Mr Zahawi directed sales from a London office.

With business slow, Mr Zahawi persuaded Lord Archer - who friends had previously introduced to him over a campaign for the Kurds in Iraq - to invest a six-figure sum.

Archer reportedly later claimed the deal made him pounds 2m after a contract was secured with Warner Brothers to make kids' clothing.

When more cashflow problems developed for the expanding company, Archer reportedly invested another pounds 200,000 in exchange for a third of the company.

Mr Zahawi went on to be a key part of Lord Archer's aborted London mayoral campaign in 2000. There appears to be no denying Mr Zahawi's business credentials since the Nuneaton affair.

The former councillor for Wandsworth in London co-founded YouGov with friend Stephan Shakespeare, which Mr Zahawi says employs 400 people over three continents.

Mr Zahawi told us: "The things that worked in my favour (in the Stratford selection meeting) is they wanted someone with business experience.

"We're having to make some pretty difficult decisions, particularly in the economic mess that we would inherit from Gordon Brown. It doesn't do you any harm if you've put your mortgage on the line as I did to launch YouGov.

"Unless you've lost a job, or hired and fired people, it's hard to know how that feels. Real life experience is important."

The metropolitan Kurd is apparently far removed from the blue rinse Tory stronghold of Stratford.

He grew up on a Sussex farm, with a love of horses, before his family moved to London, and he attended several public and private schools.

Of his family fleeing Iraq, he says: "What Britain gave my family was freedom and opportunity, so when we as Conservatives talk about those words, to my family they weren't just words, they changed our whole life."

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BUSINESS PARTNERS: Nadhim Zahawi persuaded Jeffrey Archer to invest in Allen
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 18, 2010
Words:646
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