Mark Thatcher & Simon Mann's African Coup
Britain's Billy Carter
Thatcher, at 51, has spent most of his life developing a reputation as Britain's Billy Carter. Most of his countrymen long ago reckoned that Thatcher had more money than brains.
Like the brother of the former American president Jimmy Carter, Thatcher has been viewed as shiftless, rash, flighty, a bit goofy and perhaps corruptible — whether deserved or not.
He was born with twin sister Carol on August 15, 1953, to Denis Thatcher, a businessman, and his wife, Margaret, a chemist. Denis Thatcher held a series of executive positions in the oil, railroad and waste disposal industries as his wife's star ascended in Britain's Conservative Party, leading to her appointment as the nation's education secretary in 1970.
Mark Thatcher was an uninspired student at the Harrow School, the exclusive boys' boarding school near London, where he was known as a slacker who preferred a tennis racquet to a pencil. He never attended college. His mother steered him toward accounting, but he failed the qualifying exam three times before giving up.
Thatcher spent his young adulthood as a B-list playboy, pursuing the two great interests of so many wealthy scions: beautiful women and fast cars. The latter led to his coming-out scandal in 1982, three years after his mother was elected Prime Minister on a platform of tax-dollar stinginess. On little more than a whim, Thatcher, then 29, had entered the Paris-to-Dakar road rally, a grueling 7,000-mile race across the Sahara Desert. Ten days into the race his Peugeot turned up missing in the desert, and he landed on the front pages of the world's newspapers for a week before a search party spotted his car. His father shepherded him home in the Algerian president's jet.
The cost of the search was estimated at $500,000. Thatcher did not endear himself to the public when he showed no contrition for the humiliating escapade.