Five things you didn’t know about Chris Hohn, Britain’s most generous philanthropist

NS business profile of the week.

Charity cards, carol services, collection tins and donate-a-goat-to-Africa gifts are all typical of this season’s charitable nature. Christmas and philanthropy are inseparable and it is therefore the occasion for charities to top up on much needed donations. However, with today’s economic climate, how are charities coping? NS Profile takes a look at one person who has given more than most over recent years. Here are five things you didn’t know about Chris Hohn:

  1.  One of the UK's most successful hedge fund managers, Hohn has donated over £800 million to children's charities since 2003. His Children's Investment Fund Foundation receives direct grants from his hedge fund of the same name. In terms of voluntary income, Children's Investment Foundation receives £2.2 million more than the Donkey Sanctuary.
  2. The notoriously discrete fund manager is worth about £80 million. This makes him one of the most generous British philanthropists when donations are weighed against personal wealth. Bill Clinton once said that Hohn's "marriage of business and philanthropy provides a great tool to effect serious change in the developing world".
  3. One of Hohn's recent "hedging" successes was with News Corp. After the phone hacking scandal broke in 2011, News Corp’s shares were in free fall. Against popular opinion, Hohn brought £500 million worth of shares which are now worth £829 million, a 60 per cent increase.
  4. However, Hohn has not always been as popular in the City as he is with charities. His TCI fund is known for buying large stakes in flagging companies and forcing radical change. During one of his more bitter disputes, Hohn ousted the chief executive of Deutsche Börse, Werner Seifert.
  5. The son of a Jamaican car mechanic, Hohn was rumoured to begin his giving pledge after witnessing child poverty in the Philippines. Since then his hedging success has helped millions of children in the world's poorest countries.
The fund manager is notoriously discrete. Photograph: Getty Images

Oliver Williams is an analyst at WealthInsight and writes for VRL Financial News

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A swimming pool and a bleeding toe put my medical competency in doubt

Doctors are used to contending with Google. Sometimes the search engine wins. 

The brutal heatwave affecting southern Europe this summer has become known among locals as “Lucifer”. Having just returned from Italy, I fully understand the nickname. An early excursion caused the beginnings of sunstroke, so we abandoned plans to explore the cultural heritage of the Amalfi region and strayed no further than five metres from the hotel pool for the rest of the week.

The children were delighted, particularly my 12-year-old stepdaughter, Gracie, who proceeded to spend hours at a time playing in the water. Towelling herself after one long session, she noticed something odd.

“What’s happened there?” she asked, holding her foot aloft in front of my face.

I inspected the proffered appendage: on the underside of her big toe was an oblong area of glistening red flesh that looked like a chunk of raw steak.

“Did you injure it?”

She shook her head. “It doesn’t hurt at all.”

I shrugged and said she must have grazed it. She wasn’t convinced, pointing out that she would remember if she had done that. She has great faith in plasters, though, and once it was dressed she forgot all about it. I dismissed it, too, assuming it was one of those things.

By the end of the next day, the pulp on the underside of all of her toes looked the same. As the doctor in the family, I felt under some pressure to come up with an explanation. I made up something about burns from the hot paving slabs around the pool. Gracie didn’t say as much, but her look suggested a dawning scepticism over my claims to hold a medical degree.

The next day, Gracie and her new-found holiday playmate, Eve, abruptly terminated a marathon piggy-in-the-middle session in the pool with Eve’s dad. “Our feet are bleeding,” they announced, somewhat incredulously. Sure enough, bright-red blood was flowing, apparently painlessly, from the bottoms of their big toes.

Doctors are used to contending with Google. Often, what patients discover on the internet causes them undue alarm, and our role is to provide context and reassurance. But not infrequently, people come across information that outstrips our knowledge. On my return from our room with fresh supplies of plasters, my wife looked up from her sun lounger with an air of quiet amusement.

“It’s called ‘pool toe’,” she said, handing me her iPhone. The page she had tracked down described the girls’ situation exactly: friction burns, most commonly seen in children, caused by repetitive hopping about on the abrasive floors of swimming pools. Doctors practising in hot countries must see it all the time. I doubt it presents often to British GPs.

I remained puzzled about the lack of pain. The injuries looked bad, but neither Gracie nor Eve was particularly bothered. Here the internet drew a blank, but I suspect it has to do with the “pruning” of our skin that we’re all familiar with after a soak in the bath. This only occurs over the pulps of our fingers and toes. It was once thought to be caused by water diffusing into skin cells, making them swell, but the truth is far more fascinating.

The wrinkling is an active process, triggered by immersion, in which the blood supply to the pulp regions is switched off, causing the skin there to shrink and pucker. This creates the biological equivalent of tyre treads on our fingers and toes and markedly improves our grip – of great evolutionary advantage when grasping slippery fish in a river, or if trying to maintain balance on slick wet rocks.

The flip side of this is much greater friction, leading to abrasion of the skin through repeated micro-trauma. And the lack of blood flow causes nerves to shut down, depriving us of the pain that would otherwise alert us to the ongoing tissue damage. An adaptation that helped our ancestors hunt in rivers proves considerably less use on a modern summer holiday.

I may not have seen much of the local heritage, but the trip to Italy taught me something new all the same. 

This article first appeared in the 17 August 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump goes nuclear