Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Mark Thatcher & Simon Mann's African Coup

Earning a Living, But How?

Mark Thatcher in 1987, Texas
Mark Thatcher in 1987, Texas

Thatcher moved to Texas during the middle of his mother's 11-year tenure in office and started a consulting firm, Monteagle Marketing. He apparently worked, but no one could figure out for whom. As the Dallas Morning News put it in 1998, "The question that has always dogged Mark is: 'What does the man do for a living?'"

It remains an unanswered question, although some say he makes money by trading on his mother's name. Britain's Guardian newspaper says Thatcher has made a career of "ruthlessly exploiting his famous surname and access to power... to set him on the road to riches." The paper described him as a "fixer, wheeler-dealer, middle-man."

His mother apparently agrees, in a fashion. She is widely credited with having said, "Mark could sell snow to the Eskimos and sand to the Arabs." He has managed to find plenty of buyers for his snow and sand. Thatcher's net worth was recently estimated at $100 million.

His biggest score came in 1985, when he reportedly pocketed an $18 million commission for helping to negotiate a $30 billion British arms sale to Saudi Arabia, according to the Times of London.

Diane Burgdorf Thatcher
Diane Burgdorf Thatcher

Two years later he married Diane Burgdorf, daughter of a Dallas auto dealer. During a decade in Texas, Thatcher became acquainted with George W. Bush before his fellow scion turned from oil and baseball to politics. In 1995, the Thatchers left Dallas and moved into a six-bedroom mansion near Cape Town, where they became acquainted with neighbor Simon Mann.

Mark Thatcher is viewed as the sort of person who could fall under the influence of a swashbuckler like Mann. Thatcher's reputation in his homeland as a "mum's boy" gnawed at him, especially because he fashioned himself an adventurer.

Most of his risk-taking has landed him in the newspapers, from the lost-in-the-desert debacle to intermittent allegations of impropriety — tax delinquency in Texas, a loan scheme in South Africa, another huge commission on a construction project in Oman.

In 2003, when Denis Thatcher died, Mark inherited his father's "baronet" title, bestowed in 1991 in recognition of his wife's service. While Sir Mark has had his flings, he had faced nothing as serious as his African troubles.

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