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“Money can’t buy happiness…” Petra Stunt in The Times


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Meeting Petra Stunt (still better known as Ecclestone) — and, actually, meeting her daughter, a bright little moppet with blond curls who comes along for our conversation — is a lesson in wealth and health. Petra is the younger daughter of the former Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone, a man whose worth is estimated at £2 billion. She is therefore, at 28, among the richest young women on the planet. And her daughter, Lavinia, at four, is the liveliest member of our meeting in a Knightsbridge hotel, expounding on mermaids in a way that makes me wonder if they really are “fake news”.

Yet their fortune could not protect Petra from a near-death experience with meningitis when she was 13. It also could not protect Lavinia from struggling with learning to talk from babyhood. “Money can’t buy happiness,” Petra tells me, “it buys things.”

However — and this is a big guilty “however”, which led Petra to her mission in life — money does affect what happens after a health problem. She and her daughter are living testimony to that. Petra already supplemented the NHS programme on meningitis; now she is now attempting to fill a hole in the treatment of British children with autism. In doing so, she has found a way out of the isolation riches forced upon her.

“It doesn’t matter how wealthy you might be, it doesn’t stop you getting sick,” she says. “Money can come and go, but the health of your children is the most important thing in life. We’re all born the same way, we die the same way, whether rich or not. The rich may be able to employ more doctors, but . . . ”


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