Lunchtime at the Crown Inn near Stonor in Oxfordshire and the pub looks busy enough.
Indeed there is a gathering of young people here — but nobody is sitting at the polished wooden bar, and there are no beer barrels connected to the pumps which gleam on top of it.
Instead, the historic building, which began serving the public in the 1400s, is under new ownership, and is actually not a public house any more.
It is, in fact, the nerve centre of disgraced former comedian Russell Brand’s media empire. A sign saying ‘recording studio’ is propped up against a mantelpiece. Children’s toys — perhaps belonging to his three young offspring — litter the floor.
Russell Brand is spotted at a motorway service on January 25, 2024. It is the first time he had been seen in public
Pictured, The Crown Inn, Pishill, Oxfordshire, England where Russell Brand was spotted (stock photo)
You might have assumed that Brand, under investigation by police over historic sex allegations including a rape claim, and also the subject of separate investigations by the BBC, Channel 4 and the production company Banijay, would be lying low in obscurity.
However it can be revealed that he now makes millions from ranting conspiracy theory videos, which are recorded here and pumped out on the social media platform Rumble.
He bought the Crown in December 2021 — pre-downfall — and it is now being used as an office by a team of thirtysomethings, who are perched at its tables tapping away on their laptop computers and making calls on mobile phones.
One young man, sitting on a sofa, is asking someone to ‘get stories about misinformation’ when the Mail visits.
After some time a manager called ‘Nick’, emerges to warn that the pub is now private property, and asks us to leave.
The locals would find that richly ironic, as Brand is widely accused locally of peddling lies himself.
The reason? When he bought the pub for £870,000, via his video production company, Pablo Diablo’s Legitimate Business Firm, Brand said that he planned to reopen it as a café and wellness space which would at least mean that it was in some way serving the community. The pub had closed the year before during lockdown, but locals hoped it would reopen as Covid faded.
Instead he has turned it into Brand HQ — and is only now applying for retrospective planning permission to use it as offices.
It can be revealed that Brand now makes millions from ranting conspiracy theory videos
In recent years Brand has established himself as a health and wellness guru and plugs various health products during his YouTube videos, which he appears to have commercial tie-ins
Meanwhile Brand is earning an estimated £4.7 million a year selling exclusive online content featuring his anti-establishment rants. Justly or unjustly, the fact is that his very public fall from grace last September has not deprived Brand of his ability to earn.
To recap, Brand was accused of rape, sexual assault and emotional abuse against four women in a joint investigation by The Times, The Sunday Times and Channel 4’s Dispatches. He strenuously denied the claims in the hours before the allegations were published last autumn, saying his relationships were ‘always consensual’, and attacked what he described as ‘media corruption and censorship’ and ‘deep state and corporate collusion’.
The alleged incidents were said to have happened between 2006 and 2013, when he was at the height of his fame and working for the BBC and Channel 4 while also starring in Hollywood films.
Scotland Yard revealed ten days later that it had launched an investigation into a number of non-recent sexual offence allegations in London and elsewhere in the UK, and would be offering specialist support to women involved.
Once just seen as a toxic womaniser with a habit of making idiotic public pronouncements, he has decisively passed beyond the pale.
Television executives whose companies once lined up to hire him were shocked and pained that Brand ever had a career on their shilling, while questions were asked about Brand’s personal friendship with BBC Radio 2 controller Lesley Douglas, who appeared to wave through crude sexual material which he broadcast while at the channel.
Brand left the BBC in 2008 after he and Jonathan Ross broadcast a series of lewd phone messages they left for former Fawlty Towers star Andrew Sachs, including claims that Brand had sex with Sachs’ granddaughter.
But despite the public outcry, he went on to perform a number of successful comedy tours and he also published two bestselling memoirs. His private life too, continued to thrive and in 2015 he moved into a £3.3million house in Marlow, Bucks.
In 2017 he married Laura, daughter of golfer Bernard Gallacher, a year after she gave birth to their first daughter Mabel. A second daughter, Peggy, followed in 2018 and another child was born last year.
In an interview in 2019 he said of his domestic set-up that Laura ‘does it all.’
He compared his new country lifestyle to a ‘luxury penitentiary,’ adding: ‘Before, I prioritised excitement and glamour and pleasure, and now I prioritise serenity, calmness, usefulness, and it’s definitely a better system. I probably could have learnt it earlier.’ At first, the good people of Marlow welcomed the pair with open arms. He was the town’s ‘pet cockney’.
Brand has always vehemently denied the claims made against him and claimed his relationships were ‘always consensual’
Russell Brand wore a £1,406 woolblend Yves Saint Laurent cardigan and an aviator hat when he was spotted out with his family
He gave a well-received speech about how he felt like he was ‘coming home’ when he switched on the Christmas lights and local shopkeepers and neighbours were positive about him. That’s changed now.
He is often spotted walking his dog in the park and frequents Cooper’s coffee roastery and bar. He also has a habit of wandering around barefoot.
One resident, Lucy Helps, said: ‘I haven’t seen him since the trouble started. The last time I saw him was outside The Ivy restaurant, last summer. A car stopped and he was getting out with a kimono on and nothing else and no shoes with two little girls, and I thought ‘Nobody else would be allowed to go into The Ivy with no clothes on’.’
Brand and Laura had dated briefly in 2007, when she was just 19, after being introduced by her TV presenter sister Kirsty, and as he put it, ‘had a beautiful time . . . but we were not ready for commitment. I, in particular, was like an unmanned lawn-mower chewing through a jungle of possibility’.
On the second date of the rekindled romance he took her to meet with his therapist for ‘marriage guidance’ and they speedily worked through what they wanted from marriage and each other.
In an interview five years ago he said that they still see the therapist ‘regularly’ both alone and together. Lifestyle blogger Laura has churned out inspirational content such as The Joy Journal for some years and also authored several books.
Russell Brand has recruited more than 120,000 people to each pay $60 (£47.30) annually to join his Awakened Wonders community group
Brand was accused of rape, sexual assault and emotional abuse against four women in a joint investigation by The Times, The Sunday Times and Channel 4’s Dispatches last September
Since the allegations Laura appears to have darkened her hair, but remains with her husband.
Indeed, it can be revealed that they spent the Christmas and New Year period at a large rented house near Stirling in Scotland together.
In January Brand posted a photo on social media of himself with fellow conspiracy theorist and GB News presenter Neil Oliver, who lives in the area.
Some locals who saw Brand at a pub in Stirling said that he was so taken with the location he was even talking about wanting to buy a second home there. He certainly has the funds. While his days of private jets and appearing topless on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine are over, he has found a new constituency — in America.
Brand, 48, has continued to release his free-to-view videos on both YouTube, where he has 6.7 million followers, and video platform Rumble where he has 1.8 million followers.
He set up his Rumble channel, called Stay Free, in September 2022 after YouTube took down one of his videos on the grounds that it had broken its guidelines on medical misinformation.
Although YouTube banned adverts from appearing on his videos when he was first accused of a string of sex assaults last September — effectively an attempt to drive him from the platform — he instead plugs health drinks and anti-ageing creams.
Among them are ’emergency packs’ of medicines in case of a ‘new pandemic’ which cost $299.99 (£236.73) each. They contain anti-viral and anti-parasitic medication and are made by a firm based in Florida. wHe has recruited more than 120,000 people to each pay $60 (£47.30) annually to join his Awakened Wonders community group on Rumble’s social media platform Locals.
Subscribers can access exclusive and advert-free content from Brand, who offers conspiracy theories on topics including Covid and the war in Ukraine.
The total value of the subscriptions is nearly £5.7 million a year, but statements on the Locals website suggest it takes 20 per cent commission from content creators, although that would still leave £4.7 million for Brand.
Most of his Rumble subscribers appear to be American, reflecting the content which mainly feature his commentaries on US politics, foreign affairs and corporate elites profiting from Covid.
The subscription fees are in addition to the estimated £27,000 a month he earns from conventional ads allowed to run alongside his videos on Rumble, which is known for its high number of Right-wing streamers.
It means that Brand’s earnings from Rumble and Locals more than make up for the estimated £1 million a year which he lost when YouTube axed ads from his channel.
Elsewhere, most recent accounts for Pablo Diablo’s Legitimate Business Firm Limited show how well he is doing — it made £2.9 million profit in the 12 months up to December 2022, allowing Brand and Laura to take dividends totalling £2.1 million.
The accounts show that the company held a healthy balance of assets worth more than £4.8 million at the end of the accounting period.
No amount of wealth, though, will get him back into the good books of his neighbours, some 50 of whom are objecting to his plans for The Crown.
Gabrielle Evans says that Russell and Laura Brand turned up at a parish meeting last May and told everyone how they were going to open up a coffee shed and bar and restaurant at The Crown — but didn’t mention any plans for offices.
She vehemently opposes the loss of ‘one of the finest examples of an English country pub’. Another neighbour, Mrs Walmsley writes: ‘The applicant . . . has not opened the pub for even one day since purchase.’
It’s not, surely, a way to make friends. But it seems that Brand, having gone from media darling to conspiracy theorist, has found that he has no need to build local relationships — not as long as he can make so much money from his army of deluded online fans.
Additional reporting: Stephanie Condron