ARK celebrity auction scoops £10m at its London gala event

Joe Gill

A donor paid £160,000 for a tennis match with Tony Blair at one of charity's glitziest and most lucrative fundraising nights of the year.

The event, which swelled the coffers at Absolute Return for Kids by £10m, was organised by hedge fund manager Arpad Busson, partner of supermodel Elle MacPherson.

"It's a staggering amount of money to be raised from one event in one evening," said Andrew Watt, head of policy at the Institute of Fundraising.

Celebrity auction lots included £180,000 to drive with Michael Schumacher, £90,000 for a walk-on part in Pride & Prejudice, and £60,000 for dinner with columnist AA Gill and TV chef Nigella Lawson. Tables at the event were sold for between £25,000-£35,000.

"The hedge fund industry is renowned for raising large amounts of money," said Busson, who chairs the charity.

ARK distributes anti-retroviral drugs to HIV-infected mothers in South Africa, and it is helping to find foster parents in Romania.

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