Omid Scobie: there can’t be many people today who have never heard of the royal author or failed to have seen his face in the papers or on TV.
He has been mentioned more than 8,500 times in press articles on this side of the pond alone over the past few years, often described as Harry and Meghan’s cheerleader-in-chief, something he denies.
‘Spin-free’ and impartial is how he describes his fawning 2020 bestselling biography of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Finding Freedom, which he co-wrote with fellow journalist Carolyn Durand. He was not being ironic.
Either way, one thing no one could accuse Scobie of, in the wake of his new-found fame, is failing to embrace the celebrity life.
Only this week, on the eve of the publication of his new book Endgame (subtitled ‘Inside the Royal Family and the monarchy’s fight for survival’), he has posted a picture from the window of what appears to be a luxurious property in Los Angeles. It shows rain pattering onto the crystal-blue water of a sizeable swimming pool. The caption reads: ‘Did not sign up for this.’
Yes, Omid. Even in California, the ‘Sunshine State’, it rains in November.
The U.S. has become a home from home for Scobie, where he has regularly appeared on Good Morning America, been a contributor to ABC News and where his latest royal potboiler is being serialised in People magazine.
Photographs on his social media accounts depict him embracing the life of an LA prince, visiting the Polo Lounge in Beverly Hills and Nobu in Malibu, two of the area’s most expensive restaurants. Both are celebrity hangouts and less than two hours’ drive from Harry and Meghan’s Montecito mansion.
He has also shared shots of himself in France: in Chamonix (he has a penchant for Chanel skis, apparently) and holidaying at the five-star Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc in Cap d’Antibes on the Riviera (‘I live here now’ he joked on a video shot from the hotel’s spectacular saltwater infinity pool).
Then there’s shopping for designer clothes and accessories (Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Balenciaga, to name a few brands in his wardrobe) with his beloved French bulldog, Yoshi.
Scobie once turned up for a rendezvous with Tatler with Yoshi by his side. The pooch, named after a Super Mario character, was ‘lapping up water from a bowl his master produced from a Burberry man bag,’ to quote the interviewer, who observed that Scobie was wearing high-end jewellery items, including a ring by luxury Hollywood brand Chrome Hearts, while drinking coffee with almond milk.
Of course he was.
In another photoshoot, accompanying a magazine article, Scobie can be seen posing aristocratically in a gold smoking jacket.
How much has he made since he began writing about Harry and Meghan? Some estimates put it at around $800,000 (just over £660,000) – and that’s before Endgame, billed as ‘exposing the chaos, family dysfunction, distrust and draconian practices’ inside the Royal Family, goes on sale next week.
Kinsey Schofield, an American blogger and podcaster about the Royal Family, met Scobie in the green room of a TV studio when they were both commentating on a royal event last year.
‘I’d describe him as big for his britches, very impressed with himself,’ she recalled. ‘He didn’t engage with me as a fellow commentator, which you think someone might do in a work situation.
‘He has an over-abundance of confidence — it’s inauthentic. He’s got some things wrong.’
We certainly didn’t get the whole truth in Finding Freedom.
Harry and Meghan consistently denied co-operating with the authors. Meghan was later forced to admit in the High Court privacy claim against Associated Newspapers that she had indeed authorised an aide to brief the authors and later apologised for misleading the court, insisting she ‘had not remembered’ the email exchange.
Similar suspicions, rightly or wrongly, surround Endgame.
Exactly what supposedly happened on or around September 8, 2022, the day Queen Elizabeth passed away at Balmoral, is chronicled in the book.
Harry, it is alleged, was not informed of his grandmother’s rapid decline or the fact the Palace was already making preparations for the Queen’s final hours — ‘until his phone started ringing’, writes Scobie. ‘An unknown number. He usually ignored those.’
Harry answered the call after being persuaded by Meghan. On the line was his father telling him to make his way to Scotland immediately.
It’s hard, apart from the obvious, to see where this information could have come from, isn’t it.
The next thing Harry did, according to Scobie, was to send a text message to his brother ‘asking how he and Kate planned to get to Scotland and whether they could travel together. No response.’
Would any of Harry and Meghan’s circle, if they had been privy to that revelation, have spoken to Scobie without the couple’s permission?
In the end, they chartered a plane to Scotland from Luton airport.
This week Scobie tweeted: ‘And let’s get this nonsense out the way —#ENDGAME is about the current state of the British Royal Family. It’s not “Harry and Meghan’s book”, I’m not “Meg’s pal”, the Sussexes have nothing to do with it, their story is a small part of a much bigger one you can read in 12 days.’
The Sussexes, too, have distanced themselves from the book.
Scobie has undergone quite a transformation down the years, not just professionally — the man feted by society bible Tatler and who is now royal editor-at-large for Harper’s Bazaar, used to run a seedy Korean website, of which more later — but physically as well. His appearance changed dramatically after he returned from a trip to the Far East a decade or so ago, according to someone who knew him back then.
You only have to look at photos of him, pre-Harry and Meghan, to perhaps grasp why. ‘He just looks totally different,’ said the person, who encountered him professionally.
All this, plus with the revelation that he knocked five years off his age, saying he was 33 when he was really 38, in an interview with the Times in 2020, culminated in a recent headline: ‘Who is Omid Scobie?’
Many people think that, because of his strong U.S. links, he is American. Actually, Scobie was born in Wales but brought up in Oxford, where he was a pupil at the prestigious fee-paying Magdalen College School, then, in the sixth form, he moved to Cherwell, a state secondary.
He is the eldest of two brothers, his Scottish father set up his own marketing business and his Persian mother is a social worker. Scobie himself uses the word ‘Persian’ rather than ‘Iranian’ because, he says, ‘to Persians there’s a big difference. My mum’s side of the family is not Muslim and has no connection to the Islamic Republic of Iran.’
His first job, after graduating from the London College of Communication, was as a showbusiness reporter for celebrity gossip magazine Heat, which will surprise some given what critics might call his lofty attitude to the popular press.
One of the ‘contacts’ he cultivated was glamour model Jodie Marsh, peroxide blonde, former lapdancer and Essex Wives star, whom he accompanied to nightclubs. It was even rumoured they were dating.
Jodie made the front pages of the red-tops when she hit the town in the skimpiest of micro-minis and a couple of studded camouflage belts (barely) covering her decolletage.
‘She is a down-to-earth, sweet girl with a big circle of friends around her and no bad influences,’ Scobie wrote of her.
He left Heat because, he says, an executive called him a ‘P***’ in emails. Scobie would spend the next decade at U.S. Weekly, where he became their European bureau chief, which involved reporting extensively on the Royal Family.
It is this period, in particular, which leaves Omid Scobie open to accusations of hypocrisy.
‘What gets my back up is that he acts like St Omid,’ said a colleague from those days who has followed his career with no little disbelief.
‘It was part of his job working for the Americans to send paparazzi photographers out after celebrities and royals in the UK. It was Kate and William rather than the old royals they were interested in so, ironically, Omid would cover all their appearances and write happy, shiny positive pieces about them.’
Contrast that with the portrayal of the now Prince and Princess of Wales in Finding Freedom, drawn, it is claimed, from more than 100 sources. This included allegations that they never visited Harry and Meghan at their Cotswolds home, that William told his brother ‘to get to know this girl’ before he married her, and that Kate didn’t try to help fix their relationship or attempt any meaningful friendship with Meghan.
Finding Freedom topped bestseller lists in both Britain and the U.S.
Scobie used to enjoy a good relationship with fellow journalists on the royal beat, joining the press pack on tours abroad, and even selling them some of his ‘spare stories’.
‘He was always nicely spoken and well-dressed,’ said his former colleague. ‘I think he did see himself as a cut above but had no problem mixing with tabloid royal reporters.’ He earned enough covering the royals for the U.S. media to afford an apartment in one of Canary Wharf’s most exclusive complexes and drive a Porsche.
Scobie also had a secret weapon, it turned out, which emerged on William and Kate’s tour of Canada in 2011.
‘He boasted about the fact that he could lip-read so he could work out what they were saying,’ revealed a royal reporter who was on the same trip.
Could this be the same Omid Scobie who has now reinvented himself as a crusader against press intrusion? What his fellow royal reporters didn’t know was that Scobie had a sideline: running a Korean entertainment news website IdolWow! to cash in on the South Korean pop — or K-pop as it is known — global phenomenon.
One article on the platform in 2015 carried a ‘review’ of a video that featured a singer dressed in bra and hotpants on stage with an entourage of models, six in all, kneeling at her feet – collared, leashed and wearing pink bondage masks.
The article pointed out, in salacious detail, how the video is ‘littered with close-up crotch shots in barely-there hot pants that show off the 23-year-old’s girl group star’s bootylicious curves … at one point the brunette idol even squeezes her breasts together at the camera’.
The website, which is now defunct, also highlights a star from another group in her ‘tight bikini that flaunts her ample cleavage and supremely busty curves’.
It rather conflicts with Meghan’s feminist credentials, which Scobie has written enthusiastically about in the past. He has also posted links on social media to articles about sexism.
Scobie reportedly first met Meghan at Toronto Fashion Week in the same year (2015) as his IdolWow! website carried that distasteful review.
She had not begun dating Harry at the time, at least not publicly, so he did not realise the significance of the encounter, he has since said. That all changed, as everyone now knows.
He later wrote a now famous account of the Sussexes’ final engagement as working royals in 2020 when Meghan gave him ‘a big farewell hug’ beneath the ‘malachite candelabras’ of the 1844 Room at Buckingham Palace.
A royal correspondent I spoke to confirms Scobie was invited to the Palace as a journalist. He was there to cover the function in a professional capacity, says the highly respected journalist who has covered the Royal Family for many years.
Why Scobie? It was because they trusted him, the correspondent said. Anyone who has read Finding Freedom, widely acknowledged to be a one-sided narrative of Harry and Meghan’s fallout with ‘The Firm’, will be in no doubt at all that Scobie could be trusted.
He supported their privacy lawsuit against The Mail on Sunday and recently appeared in the High Court as witness for Prince Harry’s phone-hacking claim against the publisher of the Daily Mirror.
The same loyalty, no doubt, will be evident in Omid Scobie’s latest chapter in the royal saga, which hits the bookshelves in a few days.
Additional reporting: Tim Stewart