Downfall of the It-Gay

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), September 23, 2007 | Go to article overview

Downfall of the It-Gay


Friends in high places ... Ivan Massow with pop star Geri Halliwell and, left, escorting Lady Thatcher to the 1999 Tory conferenceSwitching sides ... Property empire ... As his insurance business grew, Ivan swapped his North London squat for more salubrious homes, including this 17th Century listed mansion in Somerset and a Mayfair flatMaster of arts ... Darren Coffield was commissioned to paint this portrait of Ivan - with his dog, strangely, pixelated - after his appointment as master of two hunts in the late Nineties

Ivan Massow came to prominence in the Nineties when he set up his owninsurance firm which specialised in offering affordable cover to gay men.

The company was hugely successful and turned Ivan into a millionaire whomingled with royals, politicians and showbusiness stars. But his career is inruins after a disastrous business decision. Here he describes how he took on amulti-national in a battle that led him to the brink of suicide..

Having decided to kill myself, I went about it in an extremely efficientmanner. Carefully listing details of my bank accounts and assets so that mymother could sort everything out easily, I put the list in an envelope marked'To be opened in the event of my death' in a safe to which my secretary hadaccess.

The safe also contained a will I had made that morning. As my secretary arrivedfor work at 9am, I asked her to witness it - with no indication of any specialurgency.

By 10am, I was back in my Mayfair flat, where I took a huge overdose of pillsand a drug which I knew would do the job when mixed with alcohol. I didn't lieon my bed and wait to die like some pre-Raphaelite romantic - instead Icontinued sorting my affairs until I inevitably dropped to the floor.

The cocktail I had taken should have killed me. But several hours later I wokeup and found myself under the kitchen table. I picked myself up and walked,ashamed, to a nearby private doctor so news of my deed would never becomepublic. Nonetheless, he sent me to hospital where I remained on suicide watchfor ten days.

A few months later, I made a rather more half-hearted attempt to cut my wrists.But then the realisation hit me: the tormentor driving me to such depths ofdespair by destroying my business and trashing my reputation would only haveits pleasure further enhanced if it caused my death.And my tormentor - ZurichLife insurance company, with which I had entered into a disastrous businesspartnership in 2003 - was most definitely not worth it. One of the richest andmost powerful financial institutions in the world, Zurich Life will this weekalmost certainly start proceedings to have me declared bankrupt. The deadlinefor me to lodge almost [pounds sterling]400,000 with a court, which Zurich claims I owe it,expires tomorrow. That sum must be lodged in order for the trial for which Ihave been battling for the past two years to proceed. When the deadline passeswithout the money being paid, Zurich will have won the legal fight by default.I will have lost any chance of obtaining justice, solely because I cannotafford to fight on. And then this multinational corporation, with virtuallylimitless legal resources, will have to decide whether or not to keep comingafter me. Having already ruined me financially, and practically preventing mefrom working because of all the legal battles, it might be thought Zurich couldlet it rest there. But an insolvency practitioner I commissioned to approachZurich came away from a meeting absolutely shocked. 'I don't know what you'vedone to these guys,' he said, 'but they want to bankrupt you.' For the pastyear, I have lived in a huge rented apartment in Barcelona with just my dogTaxi for company. This week, I may go to Rome with friends or maybe Rio.Whenyou have lost so much and know you are likely to lose everything, you might aswell go out in style. For a severely dyslexic and abused child who was destinedto be a no one but went on to become a someone - socialising with royalty, filmstars and pop idols, hobnobbing with senior politicians and building amultimillion- pound business from nothing - what has happened to me feels likea death sentence.

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