Tiny Rowland

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Person.png Tiny Rowland   Powerbase SourcewatchRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
(Spook, Businessman)
Tiny Rowland.jpg
BornRoland Walter Fuhrhop
27 November 1917
Calcutta, Bengal, India
Died25 July 1998 (Age 80)
Member ofClermont Set
"The unpleasant and unacceptable face of capitalism" (PM Edward Heath in 1973)

Roland "Tiny" Rowland was a British businessman and chairman of the Lonrho conglomerate, gaining fame from a number of high-profile takeover bids, in particular his battle with Mohamed al-Fayed to take control of Harrods department store in Knightsbridge.[1]

An alleged MI6 operative, Tiny Rowland arranged for Libyan indicted terrorists Abdelbaset al-Megrahi and Lamin Khalifah Fhimah to be represented by Scottish lawyer Alistair Duff,[2] and has been named by Patrick Haseldine as the UK coordinator of the Lockerbie cover-up.[3]

Cable Magazine of 9th January 2018 reviewed the book "Kenny MacAskill: Reflecting on Lockerbie":

‘Megrahi was released by me in 2009, on compassionate grounds, when I was Justice Secretary. In many ways, the trial has overshadowed both the events leading up to it, and actions subsequent to it. For some, it has become a cause célèbre and for others, simply the culmination of the tragedy………….Perhaps there should have been more wariness all those years ago, when an Italian air force plane in UN markings collected Megrahi and his co-accused – Al Amin Khalifah Fhimah – from Tripoli, to take them to the Netherlands for trial. For though this was to be a trial held under Scots law (albeit convened in a former Dutch air force base), the major ground rules had already been set. However, the Scottish judges presiding over the trials had not yet been notified of those rules. Vested financial interests should perhaps also have been discerned. The first Scots lawyers to visit Gaddafi travelled on a plane provided by Babcock and Wilcox. Others later returned on the private jet of Tiny Rowland.’[4]

Early life

Rowland, originally Roland Walter Fuhrhop, was born on 27 November 1917 in a World War I detention camp for aliens in India, as the child of an Anglo-Dutch mother and a German trader father. After World War I, the Fuhrhops were refused entry to the United Kingdom, and settled in Hamburg, Germany. He was said to have been nicknamed "Tiny" by his nanny because of his large size. In the 1930s, he was briefly in the Hitler Youth.[5]

UK immigrant

His father, who despised Adolf Hitler, moved the family to the United Kingdom in 1937, where his son attended Churcher's College, Hampshire.[6]

Rowland then worked for his uncle's shipping business in the City of London`. He took his uncle's surname, 'Rowland' on his 22nd birthday. On the outbreak of World War II, he was conscripted into the British Army, where he served with the Royal Army Medical Corps. As enemy aliens, his parents were interned on the Isle of Man, where his mother died. He himself was interned as an enemy alien after trying to arrange for the release of his father.


Full article: Lonrho

In 1948, Tiny Rowland moved to Rhodesia where he bought a tobacco farm at Eiffel Flats in Mashonaland West province. From 1952 to 1963 he lived with Irene Smith, the wife of a business partner.[7]

Rowland was recruited to the London and Rhodesian Mining and Land Company, later Lonrho, as chief executive in 1962. Under his leadership, the firm expanded out of its origins in mining and became a conglomerate, dealing in newspapers, hotels, distribution, and textiles, and many other lines of business. In 1968, Lonrho acquired Ashanti Goldfields Corporation, a gold mining business in Ghana. The former Conservative minister Duncan Sandys, a director of Ashanti, became Lonrho's chairman in 1972. Sir Angus Ogilvy, married to a member of the British royal family (Princess Alexandra), was a Lonrho director and this increased media interest in the company's affairs. Ogilvy's career ended when Lonrho was involved in a sanctions-busting scandal concerning trade with Rhodesia. Prime Minister, Edward Heath, criticised the company, describing it in the House of Commons in 1973 as the "unpleasant and unacceptable face of capitalism". During 1973, Rowland's position was the subject of a High Court case in which eight Lonrho directors sought Rowland's dismissal, due to both his temperament and to claims he had concealed financial information from the board.[8] Rowland failed in his legal attempt to block the move[9] but was subsequently backed by shareholders and retained his position.[10] [11] In October 1993, Rowland was forced to step down as Chairman of Lonrho after a boardroom tussle with director Dieter Bock. He was succeeded by former diplomat Sir John Leahy.

Portrait of an MI6 operative

This is an extract from Nick Davies' article, "Tiny Rowland - portrait of the bastard as a rebel":

"At the start of the World War II, Rowland volunteered to become an intelligence officer with MI6 but he was turned down. He found himself instead spending three years square-bashing and rolling bandages as a private in the Royal Army Medical Corps. When his mother became ill in her internment camp and his commanding officer refused him permission to visit her, he went AWOL and was rewarded with four weeks in jail. He protested loudly at his parents’ detention, was discharged from the army and was then himself interned on the Isle of Man under Regulation 18B which covered those whose liberty was held to be “prejudicial to the Defence of the Realm”. His mother died in captivity of cancer which the authorities had failed to diagnose.

According to a long-term associate, Tiny was granted his wish to work for the intelligence services, three years after he first volunteered, and that his four weeks in jail and his subsequent discharge from the army were both arranged so that he could go through the motions of being interned with Oswald Mosley’s fascists, thus becoming a spy, an official informer. This associate of Tiny’s wonders out loud at the bizarre co-incidence that one of the original directors of Lonrho who was responsible for hiring Tiny in 1961 was one Sir Joseph Ball, formerly of MI5 and the Home Defence (Security) Executive. If Rowland was a British agent in the Isle of Man, Sir Joseph would have been one of his controllers.

In his book, "My Life With Tiny", Richard Hall notes that until 1973 Tiny shared his boardroom with Nick Elliott of MI6 and that on several occasions he appeared to be marching in step with British intelligence: during the Biafran war when he was uncannily well-informed about British plans; and later in Sudan, when there was an attempted Communist coup and Tiny flew key Government figures back to the fray, while MI6 ensured that Communist supporters were diverted to Libya and a firing squad."

Less unpleasant face

Nick Davies continues:

In a few respects, Tiny Rowland might claim to be considerably less nasty than other leading entrepreneurs. For example, when James Goldsmith tried to destroy Private Eye in the mid 70s, Tiny Rowland offered the magazine all the money it needed to defend itself. When Shell and BP ignored sanctions and sold oil to the white regime in Rhodesia, Tiny leaked details to the press and exposed them. He has a bizarre history of consoling fallen millionaires: Jim Slater, Ernest Saunders, Freddie Laker, Sir Hugh Fraser, John De Lorean all found him offering help as they were threatened with ruin.[12]

Media magnate

During the 1980s, Tiny Rowland's Lonrho entered the British newspaper market, buying the Sunday newspaper The Observer in 1981 and the newly launched daily Today in 1986. Today was sold to News International the following year, while the Guardian Media Group bought The Observer in 1993. He also campaigned to gain control of Harrods department store in Knightsbridge, but was defeated by the Egyptian-born tycoon Mohamed al-Fayed.[13]

Lockerbie film

In December 1993, a 'Financial Times' article revealed that Hemar Enterprises, makers of documentary film The Maltese Double Cross, was owned by Metropole Hotels and controlled by Tiny Rowland. Released in 1994 and produced by Allan Francovich and researched by John Ashton, the film challenged the official narrative that Libya was responsible for the sabotage of Pan Am Flight 103 which took off from Heathrow airport at 18:25 hours on 21 December 1988. Instead, it came up with an implausible conspiracy theory alleging that an unwitting drug mule – with links to Hezbollah and to both the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the CIA – carried the bomb on board the feeder flight Pan Am 103A at Frankfurt airport.[14]

Influence on Lockerbie

At the insistence of Tiny Rowland, The Maltese Double Cross made no mention of:

  • the break-in at Heathrow airport in the early hours of 21 December 1988;
  • Pan Am 103’s highest profile victim Bernt Carlsson; or,
  • Bernt Carlsson’s obvious targeting by the apartheid regime.

Shortly after the indictment of Libya in the Pan Am Flight 103 incident, Rowland had sold a percentage of his interests to the Libyan Arab Foreign Investment Company (Lafico), controlled by the Government of Libya. For this reason, Susan and Daniel Cohen, parents of Pan Am Flight 103 victim Theodora Cohen, claimed that Libya had backed the film.[15]

Parliamentary influence

On 7 November 1997, Labour MP Tam Dalyell began a House of Commons debate by revealing the influence of both British tycoon Tiny Rowland and Prof Black in the context of arranging a venue for the Lockerbie trial: "For the past 30 years, Nelson Mandela has been something of an icon for the left. His prestige for what he has done is absolutely unquestioned; therefore, surely, it behoves us to listen to what he says on what might be an awkward subject. The connection goes back to the time when Nelson Mandela wrote what I think was his only letter to the Rt Hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr Major) as Prime Minister, which was about Lockerbie. I do not hide from anyone the fact that I was given a copy by Tiny Rowland. When there was a change of Government, the first meeting Mr Mandela had with my Rt Hon. Friend the Prime Minister lasted an hour and, at Mr Mandela's insistence, 40 minutes of it was taken up with Lockerbie. Mr Mandela then came to the Commonwealth Heads of Government conference in Edinburgh and made a much publicised statement saying that in his considered judgment no country should be claimant, prosecutor and judge in the same case and in a situation such as Lockerbie. That was his view and I do not think that I distort it. It was his opinion – tactfully expressed – that we should take seriously the idea of a trial in a third, neutral country. Indeed, that has been the view of South Africa, to whose personnel I have spoken, and of many other countries for a long time. The purpose of this debate is to go through – I hope without distortion – the objections to such a course of action and then to try to refute them. I believe in being totally candid with the House of Commons: I am not a lawyer, so I have taken advice. That advice comes predominantly from Professor Robert Black QC, professor of Scots Law in the University of Edinburgh. One of the tasks to which the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Central (Mr Lloyd), must address himself is to say why the Government lawyers believe that their opinion is superior to that of the Queen's Counsel who is professor of Scots Law in the University of Edinburgh."[16]

Boardroom coup

In a boardroom coup in October 1993, Rowland was forced to step down as Chairman of Lonrho. He was succeeded by former diplomat Sir John Leahy. In March 1995, he was dismissed by the Board.[17] The Cohens conjecture that Rowland's association with Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, and the film The Maltese Double Cross contributed to the decision to dismiss Rowland.[18]

Mandela award

In 1996, President Nelson Mandela awarded Rowland the Order of Good Hope, the highest South African honour.

Media references

Rowland is prominently featured in the second part of the documentary The Mayfair Set by Adam Curtis, where he is profiled as a ruthless businessman, jetting through Africa in order to take over British companies in former colonies. He was also said to have been the model for the ruthless British businessman "Sir Edward Matherson" played by Stewart Granger in the 1978 film The Wild Geese. The satirical magazine Private Eye frequently referred to him as "tiny but perfect", not because of any shortness in stature, but because he was always impeccably groomed.


  • Tom Bower: Tiny Rowland. A Rebel Tycoon. London, Heinemann, 1993. ISBN 0-434-07339-3
  • Richard Hall: My life with Tiny. A biography of Tiny Rowland. London, Faber & Faber, 1987. ISBN 0-571-14737-2

External links


Related Documents

TitleTypePublication dateAuthor(s)Description
Document:Nothing has ChangedArticle10 November 2017John WarrenThe ill-judged words of the present Prime Minister perhaps accidentally illuminate something important about the true character of the Conservative Party: “Nothing has Changed”.
Document:Tiny Rowland – portrait of the bastard as a rebelArticleAugust 1990Nick DaviesAll big entrepreneurs have the stink of unpopularity around them. Whether it is through envy or sincere distaste, Donald Trump, James Goldsmith, Rupert Murdoch, Robert Maxwell and Richard Branson have all become popular figures of hate. The one characteristic that has marked out Tiny Rowland is his lack of respect for authority.
Document:Unanswered questions over LockerbieArticleJanuary 1995Phil JohnsonAccording to Tam Dalyell MP: "The American and British governments do not want the film shown. The American families do not want the film shown because they want their compensation money ($2.7 billion). More importantly, their lawyers want their money ($810 million)."
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  1. "Al-Fayed's £2m court bill"
  2. "'Tiny' Rowland got Lockerbie lawyer"
  3. "Tiny Rowland, Lonmin and Lockerbie"
  4. Document:Ex-Scottish Government Ministers: Political Consequences of Public Statements
  5. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/139614.stm
  6. "Hutchinson Encyclopedia of Britain - Biographies", Helicon Publishing, March 2005
  7. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  8. Lonrho chief deceived board and concealed information, court told |author=Andrew Goodrick-Clarke 9 May 1973, The Times
  9. Lonrho chief fails in court, but shareholders will decide his future |author=Andrew Goodrick-Clarke 15 May 1973 The Times
  10. Huge Lonrho vote gives Mr Rowland sweeping victory and eight opponents are dismissed |author=Andrew Wilson 1 June 1973 The Times
  11. Mr Heath calls Lonrho affair 'the unpleasant and unacceptable face of capitalism' 15 May 1973 The Times
  12. "Tiny Rowland - portrait of the bastard as a rebel"
  13. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/police-were-right-to-suspect-fayed-of-theft-rules-judge-639813.html
  14. "Charlatans, Fabricators and Conspiracy Theorists"
  15. Cohen, Susan and Daniel. "Chapter 16." Pan Am 103: The Bombing, the Betrayals, and a Bereaved Family's Search for Justice. New American Library. 2000. pp. 230-229
  16. "Influence on Tam Dalyell MP"
  17. http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/he-just-could-not-go-quietly-1609793.html
  18. Cohen, Susan and Daniel. "Chapter 16." Pan Am 103: The Bombing, the Betrayals, and a Bereaved Family's Search for Justice. New American Library. 2000. p. 235
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