Malibu resident and British ex-patriot Paul Wright is heading back home. It’s not for good, of course. Earlier this month, Wright was designated an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) and will be honored by Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace sometime later this year.
While this doesn’t mean you will now be calling him “Sir Paul,” (that title is reserved for those dubbed Knight Grand Cross or Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire), it does mean that Her Majesty is recognizing Wright’s invaluable service to crown and country.
Wright is an English barrister and a California attorney. For more than 20 years, Wright has facilitated trade between the U.S. and the U.K., acting as international transactional and litigation representative for dozens of companies located in Southern California and London.
In his second term as President of the L.A. chapter of the British American Business Council (BABC), Wright organizes high-profile events to benefit or highlight ongoing commerce between the cousin countries. Last year Wright was front and center greeting the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, or as they’re known in the tabloids, William and Kate, on their first American visit to Los Angeles. He also co-chairs BritWeek, the annual festival celebrating mutual creativity and innovation in California (to be held April 23-May 6 this year.)
“Britain is the largest single investing country in the world for the U.S,” Wright said. “A million British people live and work here. We truly do have that ‘special relationship.’”
Wright’s love for the U.S. began early, when his father moved the family to Baltimore, Md., so he could become a rheumatologist at Johns Hopkins University.
“My dad came from very humble beginnings and the only way he could go to medical school was on the one scholarship offered,” Wright said. “From then on, he loved the opportunities and dynamism he said America showed.”
After practicing law in London, Wright took the California bar exam in 1990, and set up practice in Malibu. He has been instrumental in bringing high tech, investment and entertainment contracts to fruition between the two countries. With the U.S. and U.K. seeing $207 billion in trade last year, that’s a lot of opportunity.
“Paul has helped companies like Qualcomm and Facebook gain a presence in London’s ‘Tech City’,” Andrew Lewis, commercial advisor for the British government’s U.K. Trade and Investment office, and fellow board member on the BABC, said. “He helped substantially with arrangements for the London Olympics. He hosted a garden party at the Council General’s home for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. He just highlights opportunities for L.A. companies to do business with British companies. Frankly, I don’t know how he runs a law firm with all the work he does with the BABC.”
Wright’s work for the BABC is also offered gratis. But the contacts have helped him build a reputation for easing a British company’s entry into U.S. commercial fields, helping them negotiate the new employment, advertising and U.S. regulatory environments.
“You know, the U.K. and the U.S. have almost identical problems in maintaining economic vitality,” Wright said. “There is competition from Pacific Rim countries and we have to learn how to deal with manufacturing moving to China and India. It’s about how to survive. The U.S. and the U.K. are the most closely aligned creative places in the world.”
He said his intense office days during the week makes kicking back and relaxing in Malibu all the more pleasurable on the weekends. Kayaking and going to local movies have been favorite pastimes and he said that he has breakfast at Coogie’s most mornings.
This more laid-back approach to life seems to contrast broadly with, for example, his formal meetings with Prince William and Princess Kate during their visit to L.A. last summer.
“That was a fascinating experience,” Wright said. “We put together a conference that introduced them to leading American businessmen like Mark Cuban. They were lovely—so unpretentious and down to earth. He’ll make a superb king one day.”
Wright can expect to receive his OBE medal and investiture from either the Queen herself, or Prince Charles or Princess Ann. And he was surprised to hear about one of the ancillary perks his new order of chivalry bestows upon him. According to Lewis (who himself is a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire), Wright is now eligible to get married in Saint Paul’s Cathedral, where Prince Charles married Lady Diana.
“Delighted to hear it,” Wright said. “I promise a strong Malibu contingent will be there. Friendship and commerce between our countries should go hand in hand.”