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"My money for a wife....................."


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Millionaire gives away a king's ransom to find girl of his dreams


Last updated at 23:54pm on 16th January 2007

TomLaing1601_228x644.jpgLooking for Love: Tom Laing




When I was 21, I planned to be married with children by 25. When that didn't happen, I set a new goal of 30. Now I'm 32, still single and can't waste any more time.

I don't want to be running around a football field with a toddler when I'm 50, so it's time to call in a professional. I'm going to pay someone £20,000 to find me a wife.

On paper, you'd think I was the perfect eligible bachelor. I run my own photographic, dance and recording studio and have another business that does everything from web design to animation.

My great-grandfather started the Laing construction company, I was educated at Gordonstoun - the school Prince Charles attended - and the late Queen Mother used to stay at our family manor house.

I own a number of properties and ski, play golf and travel extensively.

I'm heavily involved with several charities and have even established a bursary scheme to help youngsters aiming for the 2012 Olympics.

I know I've been incredibly lucky. I've had a privileged upbringing, a great life and I've got lots of friends. The only thing missing in my life is a special woman to share it all with.

I'm a traditional, old-fashioned sort of bloke, and I've always believed that should be an advantage when you're trying to attract women.

I don't spit in the street, I hold doors open for people, I buy flowers, beautiful lingerie - in the right sizes, too - I'm attentive, sensitive, generous and romantic.

Sadly, women just don't seem to appreciate those things the way they used to.

I've never had a relationship last longer than a year and I honestly don't understand where I'm going wrong.

In fact, I've only ever had two serious girlfriends. I waited until I was 25 before sleeping with my first proper girlfriend, Natalie, a nurse, as it didn't feel morally right for me to do it before then.

But the relationship soon petered out after it became clear that Natalie wasn't that "into me".

Then there was Michelle, who was the opposite - too clingy. She told me she loved me after only two months and I ended it. I regret that now: I really think she could have been The One.

Ever since then, a successful relationship has eluded me - although not through lack of trying.

For instance, I once wrote a poem for a woman I'd fallen for then had it translated into German, which she spoke fluently, and written out by a calligrapher.

She simply ignored my efforts and I had to go to America and walk 1,500 miles of the Appalachian trail to try to get her out of my system - only to discover, on my return, that she was gay. Even so, it knocked my confidence.

Another time, I met a really attractive woman who worked at the hotel I was staying in. I forced myself to ask her out but it took six visits to the hotel before I plucked up courage.

Finally, one evening I asked her to deliver a bottle of wine to my room - but I still didn't know what to say, even in private.

I called her to complain that the wine was corked and when she came back with a replacement I blurted out that I'd lied because I wanted to ask her on a date. She was very sweet, but told me she had a boyfriend.

I'd like to say the experience made me stronger, but it was completely mentally and physically draining.

I find a lot of women today very unapproachable. They look as though they would be offended just to be asked out. They're confident, seem to know what they want and they’re able to get it in most areas - yet still expect men to do the asking out.

Many men have remained fairly simple creatures and trying to dissect this modern female psyche is beyond us.

I think men and women today are caught between two generations of progress - and we're both missing the point.

So I guess I'm just too scared. I'm not single because I’m fussy - I see women to whom I'm attracted every day. I just don’t have the guts to do anything about it.

Because I'm not a "lad" who goes out on the "pull", preferring nights in or nice meals, I don’t get that many opportunities to meet women.

I meet lots of people through work but it would be totally unprofessional to hit on a client.

I've tried other methods. When I hit 30 I signed up to a few dating agencies and singles organisations. I worked out that I’ve spent around £20,000 in fees and expenses on dates - and still got absolutely nowhere.

Over the years I've handed over thousands to matchmaking agencies alone - £5,000 to one in particular - which only resulted in a series of incredibly expensive dates costing £500 a time.

I usually have to come down to London for the dates as that's where the more exclusive dating agencies are based - which means paying for a hotel room, dinner at Gordon Ramsay, tickets to the theatre.

I'm old-fashioned and believe in paying for the privilege of taking a lady out.

And I want to enjoy myself, even if the company isn't perfect. I've had some great nights, just never with anyone who turned out to be "special".

There was nothing wrong with my dates - one woman was an attractive, slim, blonde fitness instructor.

But they were all unremarkable and I need quirkiness to hook me in, whether it’s physical or in personality - something that makes her stand out from the crowd.

I've also been speed dating. Last time I took two of my staff from work with me; six months later one of the guys is still with the woman he met that night while I've rarely gone home with even a phone number.

The problem is I never seem to like the people who like me, and vice versa.

I've even put an ad in the local paper looking for a "relationship manager". It read: "I'm offering a job position to someone with a great social circle who can go out and arrange dates for me."

A Polish guy answered and even though we met a couple of times and came up with a few plans, there just didn’t seem to be anybody he knew who was suitable. I still paid him for his efforts.

Most of my friends have settled down, as have two of my brothers - including the youngest, James, who's only 28.

I babysit for them but it just leaves me wondering if I'm going to turn into a mad old uncle instead of a loving dad, which is heartbreaking.

So when I went down to London for a night out with a friend, she introduced me to a friend of hers, Clare Gillbanks - a professional matchmaker whose title is the Dating Angel.

Usually, her work involves setting up events where she brings single people together and does her best to pair them up. They don't usually pay a lump sum like me, but just pay to go to individual events.

But I decided that since I've spent so much on dating, I might as well go the whole hog and effectively hire Clare to be my personal matchmaker - for at least a year.

I decided to offer her £20,000 if she could find me a wife. (And yes, I had had a bit to drink!)

But even in the cold light of day it seemed a good idea, so we came to a serious business agreement which we will both uphold for at least a year.

She reckons I'm caught in a timewarp, with very traditional values - and sometimes, expectations - and I'm not sure how to apply them when it comes to modern women.

She says I'm confused and thinks I can be too black and white - I either go overboard for someone or I pull back completely, to the point of seeming indifferent.

So she's going to teach me about women, what they expect or at least hope for, and what’s acceptable.

She tells me there's no need to play games - that it's more important to be polite and thoughtful, but without coming across as needy or, even worse, obsessive.

And I'll be able to go to her for specific advice - how to approach women in different situations, when to phone and when to email, when to send flowers.

Clare runs a dating service called Meet At Last. She's forthright, direct and has no fear - the exact opposite of me - so she's very good at making introductions and nudging people in the right direction.

She's already arranged meetings with two dating coaches who will give me a makeover if they think I need it, look at my body language and go through "practice" dates.

If it doesn't work and I haven't met the woman who is going to be my wife by the end of the year, hopefully I'll get a refund!

Later this month I've got my first event. It's one of Clare's regular events, but she's emailed everyone on her database to tell them about me, so, hopefully, there'll be plenty of lovely women for me to meet.

I've told her that I'd like to find someone younger than me, who can speak a foreign language or who is foreign - I love to travel and wouldn’t mind settling abroad.

It would be great if she could ski or is willing to learn. She'll have a brain the size of a planet and be good-looking, making "just enough" effort with her appearance - I always look at the eyebrows for clues: too bushy and I wonder if she cares enough; too plucked and I'd be concerned she's superficial.

Bit I don't have a "type" when it comes to hair colour, features or shape - I'd rather there was something interesting about her, like she's a closet Scrabble freak or she dresses up as a Goth on Thursdays.

What turns me off in a woman is lethargy or a lack of ambition. I won't get on with anyone who simply wants to "get by" in life because there's so much left to do and so many adventures still to have.

For instance, I want to visit the Ice Hotel in Sweden which is made almost entirely from ice, right down to the furniture, but I'm saving it for a magical date.

And I want to go on safari, but I'll wait for my honeymoon. All I need now is the right woman to take with me.

Despite my own background, all my girlfriends have been nurses and waitresses - and not because I have some Pretty Woman-type fantasy: I'm just attracted to people who are natural and wouldn't be impressed by my family.

No one I've dated has known anything about my background until they've come home to meet my parents. I think having money has allowed me to take risks in life and make decisions based on trust.

That has sometimes meant I've not always been very savvy, and have had my fingers burned in business.

So now, when it comes to love, I'm trying to be a bit more shrewd - although I'm confident I know how to avoid gold-diggers and if I ever doubted a girlfriend's motives, that in itself would be enough of a warning sign for me.

But money also allows a person to dabble in their dreams, which is what I intend to do now, to realise my dream of becoming a husband and a father.

My ideal partner must want to have children - my new goal is to be married by 40 with three children called Elizabeth, Hector and the youngest to be chosen by my wife.

If I don't get the wife, I'll go for the kids. I've decided that if I hit 35 and I'm still single, I'm going to investigate surrogacy. Or I’ll try to adopt.

But in the meantime, I'm going to put my trust in my dating angel to find me the love of my life - I just hope she can do it.

• For more about Tom, visit http://www.meetatlast. com/meettom or call 0870 766 5245.

Would you like to be Tom’s bride? If so, write to Tom’s Bride, Femail, Daily Mail, 2 Derry Street, London, W8 5TT, or email us at [email protected] (mark your message Tom’s Bride).

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