By Ben Laurance
Last updated at 10:50 AM on 3rd August 2010
Tony Buckingham – one of the most prominent names in the 1990s world of mercenary soldiers – is to pocket an astonishing £84.5m dividend from Heritage Oil.
Buckingham was previously at the epicentre of the murky trade in arms and troops shipped into war-torn African states.
He was a partner in the controversial South Africa-based mercenary firm Executive Outcomes.
And he was a leading figure in Sandline International, which provided troops and arms to the government of Papua New Guinea to quell an uprising.
Tony Buckinham has had a colourful career, starting out as rig diver in the North Sea
But now he is chief executive of oil and gas group Heritage, which he piloted to the stock market two years ago.
At the time of its flotation, the prospectus said: ‘Mr Buckingham ... has had no involvement with any military or security operations since the spring of 1998.’
Buckingham owns nearly 30 per cent of the company.
Yesterday, Heritage announced a £1 a share special dividend following the sale of the company’s 50pc stake in a series of oil exploration assets in Uganda to rival Tullow Oil.
And for Buckingham, pictured above, that will bring him an eye-watering £84.5m windfall.
It completely eclipses the dividend income paid to some of Britain’s wealthiest investors. Last year, the dividends from Lord David Sainsbury’s personal stake in the supermarket group founded by his forebears was a mere £13.23m.
The sale of Heritage’s Ugandan assets to Tullow was held up by a row with the Kampala government over capital gains tax on an £870m profit on the deal.
But the sale was completed last week, when Heritage (up 14.5p at 429p) said it would distribute a large part of its takings to its shareholders.
Heritage started sounding out potential buyers for its Ugandan oil assets last year. The licences involved cover two blocks on the shores of Lake Albert.
It has been predicted that the fields could eventually produce more than 200,000 barrels a day. A pipeline will have to be built to carry crude to Africa’s east coast.
Buckingham’s past is rather more colourful than those of most chief executives.
He started in the industry as a rig diver in the North Sea, and at Executive Outcomes he was a partner of ex-SAS officer Simon Mann, who ended up being incarcerated in Equatorial Guinea, having been arrested in Zimbabwe in 2004.
Mann’s arrest was years after he and Buckingham had stopped working together in the mercenaries business.