'King of Soho' son Howard Raymond lays down business roots in Belfast
THE only son of self-styled 'King of Soho' Paul Raymond - and part-heir to the porn and property baron's multi-million pound fortune - is putting down business roots in Belfast.
Deep-pocketed Howard Raymond (57) is currently in collaboration with a university in Northern Ireland to invent a specific water collection and supply technology.
And he believes the technology, currently at the prototype stage in Belfast, help offer access to clean and safe water for millions of people in countries blighted by drought.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, Raymond (57) has crafted his own gin, The King of Soho, in tribute to his late father Howard, which as well as being available in the big supermarkets like Tesco and Asda, is stocked in Belfast hostelries and hotels including the Vineyard, Lavery's and Malmaison.
Howard Raymond, who reputedly inherited the best part of £80 million when his father died of respiratory failure in 2008, is in Belfast this week "looking at a range of opportunities", though insists "none will involve real estate".
"I'm genuinely excited at this incredible water-making technology and have already been talking to the Adsum Foundation in Belfast, which is investing in sustainable projects in regions like Madagascar," he told the Irish News.
"It's so far removed from what we're doing with West End Drinks, our alcoholic beverages company, yet it has the potential to change the lives of millions of people in poorer countries.
"You could say we now cover all the bases for liquids," he adds.
A new company has just been incorporated called Sundatt, based at Stroud in Gloucestershire, which Raymond says will eventually roll out the Belfast-invented water technology, though he's loathe to reveal further details of the product at this stage.
While in Northern Ireland Raymond is also trying to look into his early family roots in Antrim town.
"My father wasn't actually called Paul Raymond. He was born Anthony Quinn, whose own parents left Antrim for Liverpool in the early 1920s.
"When he decided to go into showbiz, initially as a mind reader, he couldn't use his own name as another Anthony Quinn was making it big in Hollywood, and given the fashion for French-sounding names, he became Monsieur Paul Raymond, and it stuck."
The colourful Paul Raymond, of course, went on to achieve international acclaim and ultimately became one of the UK's richest men.
His empire was built on shrewd property investments mainly in London's Soho, where he opened the capital's first strip club the Raymond Revuebar, and also in publishing, where he launched soft-porn magazines like Men Only, Mayfair and Escort.
"He was affectionately known as the King of Soho, and his legacy lives on through our drinks company," adds Howard Raymond, whose other businesses still controls huge swathes of property in London's trendy Soho district (where you'd have little change from £3 million for a two-bed apartment).
He said: "Even though I'm a relative newbie to Northern Ireland, I can already see the region as ripe for business opportunities.
"But for me it'll definitely not be in property here - and I'm equally certain Belfast isn't ready for a Revuebar just yet," he quipped.