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Charles Saatchi

Charles Saatchi
Born (1943-06-09) 9 June 1943
Baghdad, Iraq
Nationality British[1]
Alma mater London College of Communication
Occupation Advertising executive, art collector and creative director
Known for Saatchi Gallery
Saatchi & Saatchi
Religion Judaism
Spouse(s) Doris Lockhart (m. 1973–90)
Kay Hartenstein (m. 1990–2001)
Nigella Lawson (m. 2003–13)
Children 1

Charles Saatchi (; Arabic: تشارلز ساعتجي‎; born 9 June 1943) is a British businessman and the co-founder with his brother Maurice of advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi. The brothers led the business – the world's largest advertising agency in the 1980s – until they were forced out in 1995. In the same year, the brothers formed a new agency called M&C Saatchi. Charles is also known for his vast art collection and for owning Saatchi Gallery, and in particular for his sponsorship of the Young British Artists (YBAs), including Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin.


  • Early life 1
  • Advertising career 2
  • Art 3
  • Philanthropy 4
  • Personal life 5
    • Marriages 5.1
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8

Early life

Charles Saatchi is the second of four sons born to Nathan Saatchi and Daisy Ezer, a wealthy Iraqi Jewish family in Baghdad, Iraq. The name "Saatchi" ساعتچی (sā'ātchi), which means "watchmaker", originates from Ottoman Turkish ساعتچي (Modern Turkish saatçi), derived from "saat" ("watch", in turn from Arabic "ساعة") with the suffix "-çi" [2][3] .[4] Charles's brothers are David (born 1937), Maurice Nathan (born 1946) and Philip (born 1953).[5] Nathan was a textile merchant and in 1947, he anticipated a flight that tens of thousands of Iraqi Jews would soon make to avoid persecution and relocated his family to Finchley, London.[6][7] Nathan purchased two textile mills in north London and after a time re-built a thriving business. Eventually the family would settle into an eight-bedroom house in Hampstead Lane, Highgate.[5]

Saatchi attended Christ's College, a grammar school in north London.[6] During this time, he developed an obsession with US pop culture, including the music of Elvis Presley, Little Richard and Chuck Berry. He also manifested an enthusiasm for collections, from cigarette cards and jukeboxes to Superman comics and nudist magazines.[6] He has described as "life-changing" the experience of viewing a Jackson Pollock painting at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He then progressed to study at the London College of Communication.[8]

Advertising career

In his first advertising role as a copywriter in the London office of Benton & Bowles, where he met Doris Lockhart (later his first wife), Saatchi paired up with art director Ross Cramer. They worked as a team at Collett Dickenson Pearce and John Collins & Partners before leaving in 1967 to open a creative consultancy CramerSaatchi.

Unusually for a creative consultancy, they took on employees – John Hegarty was their first, followed by Jeremy Sinclair, who as of 2011 still retains a senior role at M&C Saatchi. In addition to offering consulting with ad agencies they also took on some clients directly.

In 1970, he started the advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi with his brother Maurice, which by 1986 had grown to be the largest agency in the world, with over 600 offices. Successful campaigns in the UK included Silk Cut cigarettes and the promotion of the Conservative Party led by Margaret Thatcher through the slogan "Labour Isn't Working". Eventually, he and his brother Maurice left the agency, and together founded the rival M&C Saatchi agency, taking many of their clients with them, including the British Airways advertising account.[7]


The Saatchi Gallery's new premises in Chelsea, which opened in October 2008.

In 1969, at age 26, Saatchi purchased his first work of art by Sol LeWitt, a New York minimalist. Saatchi initially patronised the Lisson Gallery in Marylebone, London, which specialised in minimalist works; he purchased an entire show by Robert Mangold. On a visit to Paris in 1973 with his first wife, Doris Lockhart, he purchased a realist work by the British artist David Hepher, a detailed depiction of suburban houses. In the early 1980s, Doris and Saatchi purchased a 30,000 sq ft (2,800 m2) cement-floored and steel-girded warehouse at 98A Boundary Road in the residential London suburb of St. John's Wood. The Saatchi Gallery was opened to the public in February 1985, to exhibit the art Saatchi had collected.[1][7]

At one point the Saatchi collection contained 11 works by Donald Judd, 21 by Sol LeWitt, 23 by Anselm Kiefer, 17 Andy Warhols and 27 by Julian Schnabel.

His taste has mutated from "School of London", through American abstraction and minimalism, to the Young British Artists, whose work he first saw at the Freeze exhibition. In 1991, he turned his back on the New York art world with two major acquisitions by new British artists. He was instrumental in 1992 in launching the career of Damien Hirst and in bringing Marc Quinn to the forefront of the art world. His renown as a patron peaked in 1997, when part of his collection was shown at the Royal Academy as the exhibition Sensation, which travelled to Berlin and New York, causing headlines and some offence (for example, to the families of children murdered by Myra Hindley, who was portrayed in one of the works) and consolidating the position of the YBAs.

Charles Saatchi by Paul Harvey

In 2009, he published the book My Name Is Charles Saatchi And I Am An Artoholic.[9] Subtitled "Everything You Need To Know About Art, Ads, Life, God And Other Mysteries And Weren't Afraid To Ask", it presents Saatchi's answers to a number of questions submitted by members of the public and art fraternity. Saatchi's PA's were asked to buy large numbers of Saatchi's books to get them higher up bestseller charts.[10]

From November to December 2009, he had a television programme on the BBC called School of Saatchi in which he gave young aspiring artists an opportunity to showcase their work. He made no appearance in the programme, only communicating through an assistant. Artists including John Keane and Paul Harvey have painted pictures of Saatchi.

In July 2010, Charles Saatchi donated the Saatchi Gallery and over 200 works of art to the British public.[11][12]


He and his brother founded the Saatchi Shul, an independent Orthodox Jewish synagogue in Maida Vale, London, England, in 1998.[13][14]

Personal life

According to the Times Online, Saatchi is "reclusive", even hiding from clients when they visited his agency's offices,[6] and, as of February 2009, has only ever granted two newspaper interviews, though he has appeared on Nigella Lawson's television shows as a background guest.[6][15] He does not attend his own exhibition openings; when asked why by The Sunday Telegraph, he replied: "I don't go to other people's openings, so I extend the same courtesy to my own."[15] Both Hartenstein and Goldman refer to Saatchi's reclusiveness/shyness as a feint or "his shtick',[5] affected to allow him to accept (or more often decline) invitations and social requests as he chooses.

In The Sunday Times Rich List 2009 ranking of the wealthiest people in the UK, he was grouped with his brother Maurice and placed 438th with an estimated joint fortune of £120 million.[16]


Saatchi first met Doris Lockhart Dibley (as she was then known) in 1965 when she was a copy group head above him at Benton & Bowles.[5] She was a native of Memphis, Tennessee[17] and Kevin Goldman describes her as "a sophisticated woman who spoke several languages, knew a great deal about art and wine and who had graduated from Smith College and the Sorbonne".[5] She became known during their marriage as an art and design journalist, with particular knowledge of American art and minimalism. They lived together for six years[18] before getting married in 1973 and divorcing in 1990.[17]

Saatchi's second wife was Kay Hartenstein (to whom he was married from 1990[19] to 2001[20]) an American Condé Nast advertising executive from Little Rock, Arkansas. Together they have a daughter, Phoebe.

Saatchi married his third wife, British journalist, author and cook Nigella Lawson,[21] having drawn disapproval when she moved in with him nine months after her previous husband's death.[22] In January 2011, Saatchi and Lawson moved from their former home in Belgravia to a new home in Chelsea, London. This was a double fronted seven-bedroom villa converted from its former use as a warehouse and conveniently situated only 200 metres from Saatchi's contemporary art gallery in King's Road, London. They lived with her two children Cosima and Bruno, as well as Phoebe.[23][24]

In June 2013, while dining at Scott's, a London seafood restaurant, Saatchi was photographed with his hand around Lawson's throat.[25][26] The day after the pictures were published, Saatchi said they were misleading and depicted only a "playful tiff".[27] By contrast Lawson stated she saw a "sweet baby" and said, "I'm so looking forward to having grandchildren" . Saatchi then grabbed her throat and said, "I'm the only person you should be concerned with – I'm the only person who should be giving you pleasure" [28] Once Saatchi moved his other hand near her throat and even went for her nose. Nigella Lawson looked seriously distressed and left the restaurant crying.[29] The Guardian commented,

Saatchi was subsequently interviewed by police about the incident and accepted a caution for assault.[31][32] Later still while giving evidence Lawson claimed casual cruelty and controlling behaviour by Saatchi which made her unhappy and drove her to drugs. She cited as examples that Saatchi prevented her entertaining at home and disciplined her for going to a birthday party of a woman friend.[10][33] Lawson and her children left the family home,[34] and in early July, it was announced that the couple were to divorce.[35] Lawson cited ongoing unreasonable behaviour in her divorce petition.[24] On 31 July 2013, seven weeks after the incident, Saatchi and Lawson were granted a decree nisi, ending their ten-year marriage.[24] They reached a private financial settlement.[24] R v Grillo and Grillo, a trial for fraud involving the former couple's two Italian-born personal assistants, sisters Elisabetta and Francesca Grillo, began on 27 November 2013.[36] Charles Saatchi reportedly told his ex-wife that he would 'end' her.[28]

Subsequent to the criminal trial of the Grillos, it was reported that both Saatchi and Lawson could be liable for employer tax contributions on the money used for the personal benefit of the two sisters. The money, and other benefits, could be considered taxable benefits in kind, that could potentially make them subject to a 13.8% employer's National Insurance contribution. [37]

Charles Saatchi's name was linked to that of Trinny Woodall.[38] Pictures were published of one allegedly tearful public argument.[39][40]


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b c d e Goldman – Conflicting Accounts
  6. ^ a b c d e
  7. ^ a b c
  8. ^
  9. ^ ISBN 0-7148-5747-5
  10. ^ a b Charles Saatchi was loser in court of public opinion
  11. ^ Hewage, Tim. "Saatchi Donates Art Collection To Public", Sky News, 1 July 2010.
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ a b
  16. ^
  17. ^ a b
  18. ^ Goldman, p.39
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^ "Jonathan Ross cooks up a storm with Nigella Lawson". BBC Press Office, 10 October 2003; retrieved 30 September 2007.
  22. ^ Sands, Sarah. I don't want to be some kitchen blow-up sex doll. Daily Mail, 1 December 2006; retrieved 29 July 2012.
  23. ^ Hilton, Beth. Lawson 'won't leave children a penny'. Digital Spy, 29 January 2008. Retrieved on 2008-01-31.
  24. ^ a b c d
  25. ^ Victoria Ward "Nigella Lawson 'attacked by husband' at restaurant",, 16 June 2013
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^ a b DM 4 December 2013
  29. ^ Charles Saatchi says restaurant row with Nigella Lawson was 'playful tiff'
  30. ^ Charles Saatchi is seen grabbing Nigella Lawson by the throat – triggering an acrimonious divorce
  31. ^
  32. ^ "Charles Saatchi accepts caution for assault", , 17 June 2013 Retrieved 17 June 2013.
  33. ^ Saatchi preferred Frappucinos, boiled eggs, and burnt toast to his world famous wife's cooking.
  34. ^ "Nigella Lawson images 'playful tiff', says Saatchi", BBC News, 18 June 2013
  35. ^ "Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson to divorce", BBC News, 7 July 2013
  36. ^ "Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi marriage 'secrecy'", BBC News, 27 November 2013
  37. ^
  38. ^ Nigella Lawson Tweets 'Slut's Spaghetti' Recipe After Ex-Husband Charles Saatchi's New Lover, Trinny Woodall Appears To Mock Her In Online Birthday Blog
  39. ^ What did Saatchi say that made Trinny cry? Woodall in tears during row at the sameew Charles Saatchi shame as Trinny Woodall left in tears at same restaurant where he throttled Nigella
  40. ^ Charles Saatchi: Trinny Woodall pictured in tears after dispute at same restaurant art mogul rowed with Nigella Lawson

Further reading

  • Hatton, Rita and Walker, John A. Supercollector: A Critique of Charles Saatchi, Institute of Artology, 2005. ISBN 0-9545702-2-7
  • Kent, Sarah. Shark Infested Waters: The Saatchi Collection of British Art in the 90s, Philip Wilson Publishers Ltd, 2003. ISBN 0-85667-584-9
  • Goldman, Kevin Conflicting Accounts – The Creation & Crash of the Saatchi & Saatchi Empire, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1997. ISBN 0-684-83553-3

External links

  • The Saatchi Gallery
  • Works by or about Charles Saatchi in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
  • Charles Saatchi collected news and commentary at The New York Times
  • InterviewGuardian, 6 September 2006
  • Saatchi answers reader's questions on Times Online, 4 April 2010
  • Saatchi Says He'll Give Britain His Gallery and Over $37 Million in Art, The New York Times, 1 July 2010
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