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Robin Marcus Birley (born 19 February 1958) is an English businessman, entrepreneur and political donor. He is the son of Lady Annabel Goldsmith and the night club owner Mark Birley. He had a brother, Rupert, who disappeared and is presumed deceased, and has a sister, India Jane Birley.

Robin Birley
Robin Marcus Birley

(1958-02-19) 19 February 1958 (age 61)
EducationEton College
Lucy Ferry
(m. 2006; died 2018)
Children1 [Maud Birley] (Daughter)



Private members' clubsEdit

Birley owns and runs 5 Hertford Street ("5HS"), a private members' club in Mayfair.[1][2] Having found a dilapidated block of buildings in Shepherd Market, Mayfair, he raised £30 million to refurbish them lavishly – fashion designer Rifat Özbek was commissioned to design the interiors – and duly opened 5 Hertford Street in June 2012 with a spectacular launch party attended by Mick Jagger, Kate Moss, and Daphne Guinness.[3][1][4][5] The basement nightclub was named Loulou's after Birley’s late cousin, Loulou de la Falaise. Over the following five years, 5HS became a staple of London’s social scene,[6] and is where Prince Harry and his fiancée Meghan Markle had their first date.[7] The success of 5HS emboldened Birley to launch new membership-based venues.

Oswald’s, a club for wealthy oenophiles in a townhouse on Albemarle Street, is due to open in February 2018.[8] It has also been reported that Birley has secured an option on two adjoining townhouses in Berkeley Square – almost next door to Annabel’s – to launch a business-focussed club.[9] Meanwhile, in November 2017, Avenue reported that Birley is close to finalising a deal to commence work on a major new club, akin to 5HS but with bedrooms for members as well, near Union Square, Manhattan.[10]

In May 2019 the club faced claims from backroom staff who had protested against “poverty pay" demanding the real Living Wage pay rate and an occupational sick pay.[11][12]

Birley SandwichesEdit

Birley’s first entrepreneurial success came with the foundation of Birley Sandwiches in the early 1980s. Over the following 30 years, he has gradually expanded the concept – sandwiches made in front of the customer from fresh ingredients – into a successful chain which now comprises 15 outlets in the City of London and Canary Wharf.[13][14]


Heavily influenced by Edward Goldsmith, his step-father’s brother and the founder of The Ecologist, Birley has always maintained a keen interest in environmental matters. In 2002, he set up Envirotrade,[15] a project assisting small farmers in Mozambique through reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) and agroforestry by generating carbon credits through which they could earn a better living wage.[16] The Sofala Project, in Mozambique, remains the only carbon project to have been awarded gold in all three categories of the Climate Community and Biodiversity Standard.[17] The Sofala Community Carbon Project project earned $3,453,228 from carbon offset sales between 2004 and 2013, and the participating communities earned $2,136,744 from agroforestry and avoided deforestation activities directly from the project.[18]

However, the crash in the international carbon trading market meant that Birley increasingly had to fund the projects out of his own pocket. Having spent several million, he handed the projects back to the community in 2012, but continued making donations until 2015.

In April 2010, the BBC admitted that a documentary about Birley titled Taking The Credit, should not have been shown because of conflicts of interest.[19] The BBC trust stated in its final report in 2011 that "there was no suggestion that the ACLT, Envirotrade or any personnel connected to the organisations had acted improperly".[20]

Birley is a trustee of the Howletts and Port Lympne Animal Park which is committed to returning rare and endangered animals back to their natural habitats. Working with the two Parks, Howletts Wild Animal Park opened in 1975 and the Port Lympne Reserve opened in 1976, the Foundation runs its own projects overseas and support other reintroduction programmes across Asia and Africa.[21]

Personal lifeEdit

Birley grew up in London with his siblings, Rupert and India Jane. He was educated at St Aubyns School in Rottingdean, East Sussex and Eton College. His parents were divorced after his mother had two children with his father's friend Sir James Goldsmith. His mother eventually married Goldsmith.[22] Birley has three half-siblings through his mother's second marriage, Zac Goldsmith, Jemima Goldsmith and Ben Goldsmith.[23]

During his adolescence, Birley was mauled by a tiger at Howletts Zoo, the private zoo of family friend John Aspinall. The bones on one side of his face were crushed. He has endured years of cosmetic surgery but the accident left him with permanent scarring.[23]

In the late 1990s, with his father Mark unable to direct his Mayfair Private Members Clubs on a day-to-day basis, Robin and his sister India-Jane took on an increasing role in the management of the clubs,[24] which comprised Annabel's (named after his mother), Harry’s Bar, Mark’s Club, George and the Bath and Racquets Club.

However, in 2006 Birley was dismissed from his position by his father, after a family row following his hiring of a private investigator to do a background check on his sister’s new boyfriend. Birley and India Jane later reconciled at her wedding.[25] Mark Birley, by now unwell (he died in August 2007) and without his son to run the group of clubs, sold them to the clothing tycoon Richard Caring, who continues to operate them under the ‘Birley Clubs’ brand (with the exception of Mark’s Club, which was sold on).[26]

In 1986, his brother Rupert was presumed drowned in mysterious circumstances whilst working in Togo, but his body was never recovered.[27]

Birley has a daughter, Maud, by a former girlfriend. He married Lucy Ferry, the ex-wife of Bryan Ferry, in October 2006.[28][29] She committed suicide on July 23, 2018 at the age of 58.[30]

In December 2018, Birley joined residents' protest against plans for a new 24-hour casino in Mayfair.[31]


  1. ^ a b Gill, A.A. (August 2012). "Life Begins at 8:30". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 2 May 2018.
  2. ^ "Robin Birley proves he's the king of clubs". London Evening Standard. 1 August 2013. Retrieved 2 May 2018.
  3. ^ "Mingle With Celebs at These Hot London Clubs—If You Can Get In". Yahoo! News. 7 September 2012. Retrieved 28 November 2017.
  4. ^ "London's Top Private Members Clubs – Quintessentially".
  5. ^ "London's gone doo-Loulou's: why Hollywood A-listers, models and royals can't get enough of the exclusive Mayfair club". London Evening Standard. 31 May 2012. Retrieved 2 May 2018.
  6. ^ James, Khila (27 November 2017). "5 Hertford Street Is Still London's Most Secretive Club". New York Observer. Retrieved 28 November 2017.
  7. ^ Walden, Celia (28 November 2017). "Sweet but steely: why Meghan Markle is so much more than a 'Hollywood vixen'". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 28 November 2017.
  8. ^ Anderson, Bruce (12 August 2017). "The king of clubs is a romantic at heart". The Spectator. Retrieved 28 November 2017.
  9. ^ Shakespeare, Sebastian (20 May 2017). "Nightclub king Robin Birley declares Battle of Berkeley Square". Daily Mail. Retrieved 28 November 2017.
  10. ^ Gross, Michael (20 November 2017). "Hurly Birley: King of Posh UK Clubs to Reign in Union Square". Avenue. Retrieved 28 November 2017.
  11. ^ Alice Hutton, Jonathan Paige (2019-06-06). "Pay protesters at 5 Hertford Street are offered 35p an hour more". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 2019-06-06.
  12. ^ Hutton, Alice (2019-05-30). "Workers at exclusive Mayfair club 5 Hertford Street protest against "poverty pay"". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 2019-06-06.
  13. ^ "The best sandwiches made from the best ingredients – Birley Sandwiches".
  14. ^ Wilson, Bee (6 January 2011), "Where to find the best sandwiches in London", London Evening Standard, retrieved 2 May 2018
  15. ^ "Envirotrade's carbon trading project in Mozambique: "The N'hambita experiment has failed" | REDD-Monitor". Retrieved 2019-06-20.
  16. ^ "How Africa can earn billions from carbon trading" (PDF).
  17. ^ "Projects |CCBA". Retrieved 2019-06-20.
  18. ^ "Sofala 2013 Annual Report" (PDF).
  19. ^ Olden, Mark; Gillard, Michael (11 April 2010). "Carbon credit documentary should not have been shown, BBC admits". The Observer. Retrieved 29 May 2011.
  20. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-06-07. Retrieved 2011-12-16.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  21. ^ "The Aspinall Foundation – How We Are Run".
  22. ^ "Lady Annabel, the ghost of Jimmy Goldsmith and two society clans". Retrieved 2019-06-20.
  23. ^ a b Osley, Richard (25 August 2007). "Mark Birley dies, but the feud lives on". The Independent. Retrieved 2 May 2018.
  24. ^ "Three affairs, one wedding and the two society clans tearing". Retrieved 8 March 2016.
  25. ^ Walker, Tim (24 July 2008). "Birleys reconciled at India Jane's wedding". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 28 November 2017.
  26. ^ "Aristocrats' favourite nightclub Annabel's sold for £90m". Daily Mail. 6 June 2007. Retrieved 28 November 2017.
  27. ^ "Mark Birley". The Independent. 2007-09-03. Retrieved 2019-06-20.
  28. ^ "Toyboy Ferry gets serious with Sienna". Daily Mail. 29 June 2007. Retrieved 2 May 2018.
  29. ^ "The cruel truth about surly Birley". Mail Online. Retrieved 2019-06-20.
  30. ^ "Revealed: Bryan Ferry's socialite ex-wife Lucy Birley, 58, 'died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in her brother's B&B in Ireland after a long battle with depression'". Daily Mail. 25 July 2018. Retrieved 29 July 2018.
  31. ^ "Club king Birley joins residents in fight against 24-hour Mayfair casino". Evening Standard. 2018-12-19. Retrieved 2019-06-06.

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