A billionaire Wall Street investor and Tory donor is the beneficial owner of a Borders sporting estate which had its licence to kill birds revoked by Scotland’s wildlife protection agency.

Louis Moore Bacon is the named beneficiary of the 9,000 acre Raeshaw Estate, near Stow, which is owned by a holding company based in the tax haven of Jersey.

The estate was required to name Bacon in light of the introduction of a new UK Register of Overseas Entities which aims to boost transparency around land and property ownership.

There is no suggestion Bacon or Raeshaw has broken tax laws, but campaigners warn that entities registered in Jersey contribute to global tax loss and poor financial transparency.

In 2016, we reported that Raeshaw’s shooting licence was revoked after evidence was found that birds of prey had been persecuted. No individual was charged, prosecuted or convicted for any wildlife offences.

Read more on day one of the series: 

Revealed: How major Tory donors own tax haven properties across Scotland

Explained: How we uncovered Scotland’s Secret Owners

The estate launched a legal challenge against a decision by Scotland’s wildlife agency to revoke its general licence, but lost.

Between 2005 and 2019, Bacon’s MECM, Ltd gave £693,000 to the Conservative Party – including £250,000 just ahead of the 2015 general election – while his Moore Europe Capital Management gave £68,000.

Labour MSP Richard Leonard said the involvement of “a billionaire, a Tory donor” and a tax haven was “a perfect encapsulation of how rigged and destructive our economic system is”.

He added: “There should be no billionaires, tax havens should not exist, and we need to fundamentally transform our economy to redistribute wealth and power, and make it work for the people.”

The Herald:

Raeshaw Estate

In his native US, Bacon fundraised for 2012 Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, and gave around £800,000 to failed 2016 presidential candidate Jeb Bush, who lost out to Donald Trump. Bacon was deemed a Wall Street “legend” by Forbes, which estimated his net worth to be nearly £1.3bn in May.

He reportedly earned his wealth by trading commodities and currencies, later founding hedge fund, Moore Capital, in 1989, which closed and refunded investors in 2019, citing years of "disappointing results”.

In 1992, Bacon founded the Moore Charitable Foundation, “to preserve and protect natural resources for future generations”. In 1993, he bought Robins Island in New York State to preserve the undeveloped land as a bird reserve. He also donated £300,000 via a charity to help to create the Atlantic’s biggest marine reserve in the waters around Ascension Island.

A Conservative Party spokesperson said the party “only accepts donations from permissible sources, namely individuals registered on the UK’s electoral roll or UK registered companies. Donations are properly and transparently declared to the Electoral Commission, openly published by them, and comply fully with the law.”

Police visits to the estate

Raeshaw was visited by the estate three times over a period of seven years. In 2009, police attended after several dead buzzards and poisoned baits were found in the area, the Guardian reported. During a raid, a poisoned red kite and several alleged baits were found.

Three injured hunting dogs were also seized by the SSPCA, on suspicion of involvement with badger baiting.

In 2014, during another police visit to the estate, officers reportedly found the remains of a buzzard – thought to have been poisoned – traps, a cage containing a live pigeon, other dead birds, and a crow trap.

An estate spokesperson confirmed that police had visited the premises in 2009 and in 2014, but said “no one was arrested, charged, prosecuted or convicted of any of the wildlife offences,” adding: “In relation to the visit from the SSPCA in 2009, the individuals were acquitted and proved to be innocent after due legal process.”

Police Scotland visited the estate and associated properties again in 2016 after evidence was found that birds of prey had been persecuted.


The Herald:

Louis Bacon (right) with New York City mayor Michael R. Bloomberg

The episode saw Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) – the predecessor to NatureScot – remove the estate’s general licence, which allows gamekeepers to control crows and other birds that take grouse eggs and chicks. Raeshaw pursued a judicial review of the decision, but the case was thrown out by the Court of Session.

However, The Ferret reported at the time that SNH granted the estate two licences which allowed the estate to kill crows, rooks, jackdaws, magpies, collared doves, woodpigeons, feral pigeons and three species of gulls for specified periods.

This loophole “completely undermined” moves to penalise grouse-shooting estates suspected of persecuting birds of prey, according to conservationists. The move was defended as “robust regulation” by SNH.

NatureScot said Raeshaw currently has two licences – one to kill ravens, and another for brown hare, both aimed at “preventing serious damage to livestock, woodland or crops”. 

The Herald:

Raeshaw Estate

“Neither of these species is covered by a general licence,” said a spokesperson. Specific licences are granted to estates which can prove “that their individual circumstances meet the strict requirements of the licensing tests which are detailed in legislation”.

“NatureScot is able to attach conditions to any specific licence to ensure that the licenced individual carries out the activity in the specified way or is held personally accountable,” they added.

Bacon did not respond to requests to comment.

Scotland’s secret owners is a Ferret investigation exclusively produced in partnership with The Herald. The Ferret is a  media-co-op, which works with its members to produce investigations in the public interest. Sign up to our newsletter to find out more or become a member at theferret.scot/subscribe