Self-made businessman whose donations kept UKIP afloat
"UKIP has relied for the majority of its funding on a single supporter, Mr Alan Bown. Since 2003 Mr Bown has made donations to the party, in one form or another, amounting to over £1 million". So found Lord Phillips, the President of the Supreme Court, in 2010.
In a case that would have bankrupted UKIP, the Supreme Court was concerned with the Electoral Commission's claim that UKIP should pay back the donations when it was found that their biggest donor was not registered to vote. Although UKIP's knowledge of Bown's status on the register was accepted to have been "an oversight", Alan Bown was quite candid about his reason for not registering: "If you've been a bookie, you don't want to be on the electoral register. People think you'll have stacks of cash hidden in the house".
Alan Bown's deeply held conviction that the UK should leave the EU resulted in him funding the party with over £2m to ensure that result. He also made substantial loans whenever the party was in financial difficulty. He first joined Roger Knapman's UKIP in 2003 and began injecting cash from the start. As early as 2004, he paid for eight million leaflets for that year's European elections. He also used a property of his in Ashford to set up a call centre that was instrumental in raising the party's membership from 8,000 to 27,000 in two years, He became the deputy party treasurer and worked closely with Knapman's successor, Nigel Farage, to plan the party's campaigns. As is recognised by Nigel Farage and all then at the top of the party, UKIP would not have survived without Bown's money. Arguably, Bown's support for UKIP was instrumental in bringing about Brexit. He also served on the party's National Executive Committee from 2005 until 2019. In the 2015 general election, UKIP's share of the vote peaked at just under four million, putting it in third place behind the Labour Party. It was with a great sense of satisfaction that he was witness to both the Referendum result in 2015 and Brexit.
Born Alan Michael Cullerne-Bown, the son of a car park control company owner, in South Kenton, London during the war, his family moved to Bramhall outside Stockport while he was a child. He was educated at Macclesfield Grammar School, where he ran a lucrative roulette table in the lunch breaks. He left school to work for a local bookmaker at a time when, under the Gaming Act, bookmaking off the racetrack was still an imprisonable offence. In the evenings, he worked as a croupier in a nightclub.
Aged seventeen, Bown started Bramhall's first evening paper round, which was so successful that he was soon employing others to help with the demand. Once the Gaming Act was abolished in May 1961, the eighteen-year-old Bown started his own betting shop, operating from a garden shed. He found early fame as Granada TV's "young entrepreneur of the year" and was interviewed by Bill Grundy.
He was recruited as a manager by the Danny Quastel Bookmakers chain, which gave him the financial stability to marry in 1964, Angela Goodwin, the singer in the nightclub where he worked, with whom he had a daughter, Dawn.
With the incentive of a pay rise of £2 a week, the family moved to Margate, where Bown settled for the rest of his life. While managing the bookmaker's shop, Bown took the opportunity of taking over the town's early morning paper round and then of buying a guest house. A man with an awe-inspiring capacity for hard work, his daily routine was to collect the newspapers from Margate Station at 5 am, distribute them to his staff (often having to do the house deliveries himself), spend the day in the betting shop, and then go to work in the evening in the guest house where his duties including running the bar often until the early hours.
After ten years in Margate, he had saved enough to buy his first betting shop in Broadstairs High Street, which opened in the mid-1970s, and which involved him travelling around race tracks with his bookmaker's stand. He ended up owning eighteen betting shops in the East Kent and London areas, alongside a portfolio of properties.
The pressure of work told on his marriage which ended in divorce. In 1992, he married Lesley Smith. After her death in 2012, Bown sold up his betting business and turned his attention to his new venture designing, importing, and selling bathrobes both in the UK and internationally. He was also able to devote time and money to his other interests, becoming a director of Margate Football Club and an honorary life member of Birchington Bowls Club. He also funded the Salvation Army's Thanet Winter Shelter for the homeless.
Always a kindly, generous, and quiet man, Bown met through UKIP Maggie Carter, who was his constant companion following his wife's death. Together they both travelled the world and attended every UKIP conference. She survives him, with his daughter from his first marriage, Dawn Cullerne-Bown, a successful businesswoman who currently lives in California.
Alan Bown, businessman and political donor, born 23rd September 1942. He died suddenly of a heart attack on May 13th 2020, aged seventy-seven.
The Funeral will take place at Thanet Crematorium on Wednesday, June 10th, at 12:15 pm. Due to the coronavirus restrictions of attendance, we will be live-streaming the funeral service. The link will be available in the coming week.