He is recognisable, familiar even, but in truth I suspect that not many people know the real Robert, he tells me he prefers to keep it that way. Robert greeted me at his home in Santa Ponsa accompanied by his four lively dogs. His villa is impressive but not flash, discreet but not apologetic.
In 1940 Robert Cane Winsor was born in wartime Padstow, Cornwall his father was a Draper, and before Robert was ten years old the family moved to London to take over a Public House. Clearly young Robert was a sharp, astute boy and although he left full time schooling at sixteen he had a mission in life. He came up with a number of ideas about manufacturing display material for Garden Centres, got someone to teach him how to weld and put together a series of useful basic products that just flew off the shelves of his new specialist cottage industry, Winsor smiles as he remembers “I always had to earn a crust, and as a teenager in the 1950’s I saved up £100 to get started”. A gift of the gab and total confidence certainly helped the tyro tycoon as he went about his business.
Inevitably the young, ambitious and pushy 20 year old didn’t take long before he was presenting in front of senior executives from major cpmpanies. He didn’t follow a trend in terms of point of sale presentation, but instead invented a new concept of point of sale products within UK supermarkets and petrol stations in the early 1960’s right across the UK.
Robert was soon flying and gathered around him all the toys that a seriously rich young man would want. He had his first Rolls Royce at the age of twenty- three and was on a roll and he loved it, all of it, the business, the buzz and the lifestyle that went with it. Winsor made sure the core business was properly managed with a phalanx of talented and hard working designers, engineers and business managers. This left him to do what he enjoyed doing most, fronting his company and selling hard, when I asked him if he was a driven man he agreed, “I liked being number one in business and I also like being number one in the world of golf charity fundraising”. It was during the late seventies and eighties that the celebrity bug bit him. He showed me around an upstairs gallery that was impressively festooned with photographs of himself with among others Sammy Davis Jnr (a particular favourite), American actor James Coburn and what seemed to me the whole of the British showbiz establishment circa 1985; all of whom seemed to be vieing with each other as to who could be the most friendly to the main man; Robert Winsor.
I asked him if he’d ever been married, “Three times and each time to a trophy wife, none of them lasted more than two years” this was not the sort of answer I was expecting. “My first wife was a model named Tina Tutin, after that I married a Miss World runner-up from Australia, Valli Kemp and finally to actress and TV presenter Grace Kennedy”.
He had many relationships including affairs with singer Olivia Newton John, actress Susan George and musician Lindsey De Paul.
As Winsor gazes evenly at me over the table he also pointed out that his longest serious relationship was with actress Koo Stark to whom he was engaged for four years. I asked if his time with Koo was before or after her relationship with Prince Andrew, he smiled at me and laughed, “Frank I was the Winsor before, no D but an MBE!” somehow I think Robert might have used that line before.
Winsor sold his company in 1988 and retired at a dangerously early age for a rich man, he was only 48. Across the table in a cool and pretty room Robert eases back in his chair pauses for a moment and says quietly “It was then that I lost the plot”, at this time Winsor was worth about £2million and had money in the bank whilst interest rates were running around 17.5%, as the Americans say, you do the math. ” I started doing drugs and thinking at the same time, how f****** useless you are” what made you start I ask “I got bored, incredibly bored”. He had a big Yacht with a crew cruising about the Med aimlessly and for a man driven by his work and his business this was in hindsight not a good idea. “I was doing social drugs, maruianja and some cocaine, nothing that bad, the thing is that this life is so wasteful because you lose the plot for the next day”. He adds ” I went to the States a lot at that time and drugs were freely available at ordinary dinner parties just like cheese and biscuits, it was incredible”.
His life changed for good when one day whilst staying at his apartment at Silver Point, Porto Portals, he met Maria Jesus Laserna, a stunningly pretty Basque woman who was living nearby who was to become his life partner. “I remember she had a leather jacket on and a great figure” eventually he dated Maria, she spoke no English and he had no Spanish, so dinner dates consisted of lots of hand signals and much laughter. Maria confided in him “all her family thought I was gay” he smiles at the memory and the irony of it all. Maria has been with Winsor for fifteen years and he tells me without fuss or fanfare “I have never ever been happier” How strange then that for all of his three “trophy wives” he has been with Maria longer than all of them put together and they are still only engaged, “It’s only a piece of paper and we know what we mean to each other”.
So there you are, in talking to a man who has raised almost Euros 2million for children’s charities, mainly in Spain, the drive is still there. He loves doing it, the challenge of getting out his celebrity laden contacts book and persuading busy and sometimes difficult personalities out to Mallorca; to make even more money for disadvantaged children is his labour of love. Winsor still has the “juice” to part rich men and women from their cash when his beloved golf and charity go hand in hand. He says that after next year, when the Robert Winsor Charity Golf Tournament reaches the Euro 2 million mark he will ease down a little. I will believe that when I see it.
Robert Winsor is very comfortable in his own skin and he is a good man. A man who can still be moved to tears when explaining to me, that some of the money he has raised is going to a child in South Wales who has severe facial disfigurement and his charities money will make a difference. Not a bad postscript for a man that has always made things happen.