Grant Shapps and the bizarre story of his get-rich-quick alter ego Michael Green

The new defence secretary once used different names to operate his business outside of his role as an MP.

Grant Shapps leaves Downing Street after being appointed Defense Secretary in Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's mini-reshuffle, which was prompted by Ben Wallace's formal resignation, in London, Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023. (Yui Mok/PA via AP)
Grant Shapps leaves Downing Street after being appointed Defence Secretary in Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's mini-reshuffle. His former alter-egos have been the topic of widespread discussion following the move. (Yui Mok/PA via AP)

Grant Shapps has stepped into the role of defence secretary following Ben Wallace's decision to resign and order to spend more time with his family.

It is the most signifiant appointment of the mini Cabinet reshuffle - Wallace was a senior figure in the UK's response to the Ukraine war and Shapps will now have a greater presence on the international stage compared to any of his previous roles (of which there have been five in the past 12 months alone).

Shapps' elevation has led to increased scrutiny on his past - including the previous controversy surrounding his alter egos Michael Green, Corinne Stockheath and Sebastian Fox.

Read more: Grant Shapps appointed UK's new defence secretary (Sky News)

The web guru

In 2012, photos were leaked of Shapps at a 2004 conference using the "business name" Michael Green, a supposed web guru linked to the How To Corp business he started with his wife.

The How To Corp was a web publishing business that told online users they could "make $20,000 in 20 days guaranteed or your money back" if they invested $200 in software. And while Shapps acknowledged that he had started the business and worked as "web guru" Michael Green, he indicated he had not done so since becoming an elected member of Parliament in 2005.

Conservative party candidate Grant Shapps, left, hands out leaflets and talks to residents as he campaigns in Hatfield, north of London, Thursday, April 28, 2005. Hatfield is one of the about 80 districts, known as
Grant Shapps, pictured duriing his campaign in 2005, was still working as 'web guru' Michael Green while in office. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Shapps told Sky News in 2012: "Before I went into parliament I used to write business publications, and like many authors wrote under a business name. I was always very open about it and I actually went to one conference, where that picture was from, it was sort of open fact. It was in my biography, it was in the conference programme.

"I have seen some extraordinary headlines though, things about living double lives as though I was François Mitterrand with his second family and things.

"My wife and I set up the business, we were always very open about it and had a business author's name as many authors do. It was all a long time ago. I've not been involved for a long time."

'I don't have a second job'

As recently as 2015, Shapps had denied having a second job during his tenure in Parliament, telling LBC in an interview: "I thought the discussion here was second jobs whilst people are MPs. To be absolutely clear. I don’t have a second job. And I have never had a second job whilst I being an MP. End of story.”

New Justice Secretary Chris Grayling, left, and new party chairman Grant Shapps, leave 10 Downing Street in London after a Cabinet meeting, Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)
Grant Shapps (right), pictured with then justice secretary Chris Grayling in 2012, when Shapps claimed he had not had a second job while working as an MP. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)

Indeed, he continued to deny that he had worked under the name Michael Green - or other business aliases Corinne Stockheath and Sebastian Fox - after becoming an MP.

That was until The Guardian in 2015 located a recording in 2006 - the year after he became an MP - of him telling listeners they could make a 'ton of cash by Christmas' using his products.

In a subsequent statement, a spokesman for the Conservative party said: “Like many authors and journalists, Grant wrote with a pen name. This was completely transparent: his full name and biographical details were permanently published on the company’s main website.

"Given that this was a decade ago, and was mentioned during the cut and thrust of an interview, he referenced that his writing career had ended when he became an MP: in fact it ended shortly afterwards.”

It's a controversy that Shapps has been unable to shake off.

In January this year, Dawn Butler referenced Shapps' alter egos in a debate about party funding.

And his appointment today sparked more mentions of his alter egos.