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Tragic end for Blairs’ chum Nico

by Tony Kay

A wealthy bank­ing friend of Tony Blair has died fol­low­ing a freak acci­dent at his fab­u­lous French chateau where he enter­tained the for­mer prime min­is­ter and his wife Cherie.

Mul­ti-mil­lion­aire Nicholas Leth­bridge — known as Nico — fell two weeks ago from a land­ing at the house in south­ern France he had lov­ing­ly restored. He died eight days lat­er in hos­pi­tal.

The tragedy has stunned friends of Leth­bridge, 58, who worked for the World Bank and invest­ment firm Bab­cock and Brown before quit­ting the rat-race to spend time with his wife Rachel, 42, and their chil­dren Josephine, 16, and Max, 12.

Much of his time was devot­ed to ren­o­vat­ing the Chateau de Queille near Toulouse which had stood emp­ty for 20 years. He also launched an acclaimed arts fes­ti­val there.

The mag­nif­i­cent house, which dates back to the 11th cen­tu­ry, was his great pas­sion and the scene for many a cham­pagne soiree.

Five years ago, the Blairs, who were hol­i­day­ing near­by, were guests. Those present at one par­tic­u­lar din­ner par­ty still recall the com­ic scene when Mrs Blair removed her trousers after spilling wine down them — and then sat in just her blouse for the meal.

But Labour-sup­port­ing Leth­bridge, who divid­ed his time between France and a peri­od fam­i­ly house in Green­wich, South Lon­don, lat­er became dis­en­chant­ed with Blair over the war in Iraq.

Friends are today fly­ing to France for his funer­al and the fam­i­ly will bury him in the tiny local grave­yard in the grounds of the chateau. “Nico loved the house so much he bought a fam­i­ly plot there only this year,” says a friend.

It is believed he fell after get­ting up ear­ly to make him­self a cup of cof­fee and trag­i­cal­ly crash­ing through the balustrade and down a stair­well.

His close friend of 20 years Ger­ry Grim­stone, chair­man of insur­ance giant Stan­dard Life, tells me: “The house was full of very dif­fi­cult stair­cas­es to nego­ti­ate. He was one of the real­ly good guys in this world and was known as one of the clever­est men in the City.

“But he was also a Renais­sance man — he loved the arts and his wife is a singer — and they had their wed­ding on the Cut­ty Sark.”


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