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Members of elite polo club round on ‘hamburger’ selling Israeli chairman

Successful nightclub and restaurant owner Brian Stein criticised for being ‘outside the usual character mould’

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A former Israeli paratrooper who became the unlikely chairman of the Guards Polo Club in Berkshire is facing mounting criticism from traditionalists and military members who have left him feeling like an outsider.

According to a report in the Sunday Times, Brian Stein – who took polo lessons in his 40s after becoming a successful nightclub and restaurant owner – was narrowly elected chair of the club, which was founded in 1955 with Prince Philip as its President and the Queen as Patron.

When Mr Stein, 76, joined the elite club, which charges a £22,000 fee for playing membership rights, said he felt he had little in common with its “high-ranking nobility types.”

He added: “I sometimes said to people before the [chairmanship] came up that I don’t think that’s ever going to happen, because I’m not one of the establishment.”

But Mr Stein’s worst suspicions about his outsider status appear to have been vindicated as colonels, majors and other members told the Sunday Times of their opposition to his chairmanship.

Broderick Munro-Wilson, a former jockey and polo player and a long-term friend of Prince Charles from Cambridge, said: “It’s fun to experiment with someone [who runs nightclubs], but for me, the chairman of Guards should always be a military man.”

Mr Munro-Wilson added: “I was amazed when he came in, a lot of people were very bemused, there’s no doubt about it… For me personally, Brian has always been very nice and I think he should be given his chance, but he’s outside the usual character mould.

“He flies a helicopter, rides a motorbike with a leather jacket and runs a chain of hamburger restaurants.”

Mr Stein has also faced claims  that the club’s executive board has  become a “closed shop” under his leadership.

According to the Sunday Times, it has also been alleged that the club behaved badly towards its former Chief Executive, Neil Hobday, who resigned in 2019. Mr Stein has maintained that he left by mutual consent.

Another member was quoted saying that in board meetings there would be “four colonels and majors sitting at the end of the table huffing and puffing, knowing they have absolutely zero to contribute.

“They’re the last people you will ever see buying a drink at the bar, they are there for the lunches and free wine.”

The report added that no women – who make up 15 per cent of guards members – have served on the board since 2016.

Mr Stein has also been forced to defend claims he failed to disclose to Prince Philip and the board that he was once fined $1,000 in Belize.

But Mr Stein said: “There was a genuine misunderstanding over the disembarkation policy in Belize and on legal advice I paid the fine so that I could continue with my travel plans… It was not an issue for my fellow directors and no member of the club has ever asked me about the case.”

He added: “With regard to our President [Prince Philip], he does not get involved in day-to-day operational matters at the club.

“Nobody has ever had their membership withdrawn because they disagree with the chairman, and I would be delighted to talk to anyone who feels that their voice is not being heard.”

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