Born in the Syrian capital Damascus and educated in Beirut, he was a child of the Middle East, without a single tie to Britain.
But in the decades since then, Wafic Said, now 80, has become one of this country’s most munificent philanthropists — as he has yet again demonstrated.
The billionaire financier and businessman has, I can disclose, just donated £3.3 million to Oxford to ensure that the university’s quest for a Covid-19 vaccine — and vaccines for pathogens of the future — continues at a blistering pace.
‘It is the single most important thing to bring us back to normality — to have this vaccine,’ Said tells me from Tusmore, his 3,000-acre Oxfordshire estate.
‘We may not be the first to produce a vaccine, but it will be available at a very low cost, which is very important, and available for many countries, which is also very important.’
Wafic Said (pictured), now 80, has become one of this country’s most munificent philanthropists — as he has yet again demonstrated
On this occasion, his millions will be used to endow the new Said Professorship in Vaccinology.
Its first incumbent is Sarah Gilbert, who heads Oxford’s vaccine team. ‘Professor Gilbert is a great scientist,’ says Said, whose various benefactions to Oxford now total well over £100 million and include the establishment of the Said Business School.
But he concedes that, so far, he and Gilbert have only been able to communicate by email, explaining that he contacted Oxford’s vice-chancellor, Louise Richardson, at the outset of the pandemic. By then, Gilbert and her team were already immersed in their highly specialist work.
The billionaire financier and businessman has, I can disclose, just donated £3.3 million to Oxford to ensure that the university’s quest for a Covid-19 vaccine — and vaccines for pathogens of the future — continues at a blistering pace. Pictured: Coronavirus vaccine trials at the University of Oxford
‘I wanted to help the programme, but I was told it was fully funded. So I said: “If I can help in any way…” ’
It was then he learned that Gilbert’s own university post needed funding if it were to be safeguarded for the future. Out came the Said chequebook once more.
‘I’m very honoured that Oxford accepted,’ says Said, who met his English wife, Rosemary, when they were both working in Switzerland in the late 1960s.
He is, he adds, very much looking forward to meeting Gilbert in person ‘in due course’.
Pint-sized pop star Kylie Minogue is tickled by stickers and posters in Australia using her 5 ft height as a guide on how to keep your social distance.
‘It was something like “Stay a Kylie apart from other people”,’ she laughs. ‘It’s amazing for people to have a sense of humour when possible about what’s happening.
‘Just glad to be of service!’
MONEYBAGS KATE STILL THE HEIGHT OF FASHION
Models used to be pensioned off by the time they were 30, but Kate Moss carries on making a fortune at the age of 46.
I can disclose that she banked £3 million last year as reserves in her main business rocketed to £11.8 million.
Newly published figures for Kate Moss Ltd for the 12 months to last November reveal the continued growth of her brand. The company had assets of £13.7 million, with most of it held in cash at the bank. The figure was reduced after taking into account £1.8 million owed to creditors, which included a tax bill of £300,000.
I can disclose that Kate Moss (pictured in 2018) banked £3 million last year as reserves in her main business rocketed to £11.8 million
Last year, Kate featured on the covers of magazines all over the world, notching up her 40th Vogue and 21st French Vogue covers.
Editor-in-chief of British Vogue Edward Enninful wrote that Moss is a ‘cultural icon and shimmering national treasure’. As well as modelling, she also runs a stable of young models and still has lucrative deals with fashion companies such as Giorgio Armani.
Dame Joan’s Christmas trees-up
Christmas has come early for Hollywood actress Dame Joan Collins. Refusing to let the pandemic dampen her mood, the Dynasty star erected her tree this week, with more than a month to go before Christmas Day.
Sharing this picture online from her home in London’s Belgravia, where she lives with film producer husband Percy Gibson, she playfully captions it: ‘So what else should one do during lockdown in November?’
Christmas has come early for Hollywood actress Dame Joan Collins (pictured). Refusing to let the pandemic dampen her mood
Madonna goes feet first for Team Biden
Madonna socked it to Donald Trump this week following Joe Biden’s success in the U.S. presidential election.
The 62-year-old pop star triumphantly sported a pair of pink socks with the playful message written on their bottom: ‘If you can read this bring me some wine.’
‘My Prayers Were Answered #bidenharris,’ trilled Madonna, as she indulged herself with a victory glass of rosé.
Madonna once turned down The Donald for a date, according to the President’s niece Mary Trump. A disgruntled Donald then criticised how the Like A Virgin singer chewed gum, which he found unattractive.
Madonna triumphantly sported a pair of pink socks with the playful message written on their bottom: ‘If you can read this bring me some wine’
Jilly seeks a man to make earth move
Seven years on from the death of her husband Leo, bonkbuster queen Jilly Cooper says she doesn’t want another romance in her life — but would be keen to cohabit platonically with a gay gardener.
‘I shan’t ever have another meaningful relationship and I don’t want one,’ she says.
‘It’s a bit silly, me rattling round this big house [her Gloucestershire home] with its large garden and woodland. I’ve decided what I now need is an upmarket, resident gay gardener. He could look after the land by day and not bother me by night.’