Charles Saatchi is the second of four sons born to Nathan Saatchi and Daisy Ezer, a wealthy Iraqi Jewish family in Baghdad, Iraq. The name "Saatchi" saatçi (sā'ātchi), which means "watchmaker", originates from Turkish. Saatchi's brothers are David (born 1937), Maurice (born 1946) and Philip (born 1953).
In 1947 his Father, a textile merchant, anticipated the FLIGHT that tens of thousands of Iraqi Jews would soon make to avoid persecution and relocated his family to Finchley, north London. Nathan Saatchi purchased two textile mills in north London and after a time rebuilt a thriving Business. Eventually the family would settle into an eight-bedroom house in Hampstead Lane, Highgate.
Saatchi first met Doris Lockhart Dibley (as she was then known) in 1965 when she was a copy group head above him at Benton & Bowles. She was a native of Memphis, Tennessee and Kevin Goldman describes her as "a sophisticated woman who spoke several languages, knew a great deal about art and wine and who had graduated from Smith College and the Sorbonne". She became known during their marriage as an art and design Journalist, with particular knowledge of American art and minimalism. They lived together for six years before getting married in 1973 and divorcing in 1990.
In 1969, at age 26, Saatchi purchased his first work of art by Sol LeWitt, a New York minimalist. Saatchi initially patronised the Lisson Gallery in Marylebone, London, which specialised in American minimalist works. He later purchased an entire show by Robert Mangold.
In 1970, he started the advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi with his brother Maurice, which by 1986 – following its acquisition of advertising firm Ted Bates – had grown to be the largest ad agency in the world, with over 600 offices. Successful campaigns in the UK included Silk Cut's advertisements in preparation for the ban on named tobacco advertising, and the Conservative Party's 1979 general election victory – led by Margaret Thatcher through the slogan "Labour Isn't Working".
In the early 1980s, Saatchi purchased a 30,000 sq ft (2,800 m) cement-floored and steel-girded warehouse at 98A Boundary Road in the residential London suburb of St. John's Wood. The building was transformed by Architect Max Gordon into the Saatchi Gallery, which was subsequently opened to the public in February 1985 to exhibit the art Saatchi had collected.
At the turn of 1995, Saatchi and his brother left the agency, and together founded the rival M&C Saatchi agency, taking with them many of their management and creative staff, as well as a number of clients – including British Airways.
In December 1998, Saatchi donated 130 artworks to a Christie's auction that raised £1.7 million, creating scholarship bursaries at four London art schools.
In February 1999, he gave an additional 100 pieces of artwork from his collection to the Arts Council of Great Britain.
According to the Times Online, Saatchi is "reclusive", even hiding from clients when they visited his agency's offices and, as of February 2009, has only ever granted two newspaper interviews. He does not attend his own exhibition openings; when asked why by the Sunday Telegraph, he replied: "I don't go to other people's openings, so I extend the same courtesy to my own."
In July 2010, Charles Saatchi announced he would be donating the Saatchi Gallery and over 200 works of art to the British public. The donation was estimated to be worth £30 million.
Saatchi married his third wife, British Journalist, author and cook Nigella Lawson, having drawn disapproval when she moved in with him nine months after her previous husband's death. In January 2011, Saatchi and Lawson moved from their former home in Belgravia to a new home in Chelsea, London. This was a double fronted seven-bedroom villa converted from its former use as a warehouse and conveniently situated only 200 metres from Saatchi's contemporary art gallery in King's Road, London. They lived with her two children Cosima and Bruno, as well as Phoebe.
Be the Worst You Can be: Life's Too Long for Patience and Virtue. (2012) Abrams. ISBN 9781419703737
In early July, it was announced that the couple were to divorce. Lawson cited ongoing unreasonable behaviour in her divorce petition. On 31 July 2013, seven weeks after the incident, Saatchi and Lawson were granted a decree nisi, ending their ten-year marriage. They reached a private financial settlement. R v Grillo and Grillo, a trial for fraud involving the former couple's two Italian-born personal assistants, sisters Elisabetta and Francesca Grillo, began on 27 November 2013.
Known Unknowns. (2014) Booth-Clibborn Editions. ISBN 9781861543608
Beyond Belief: Racist, Sexist, Rude, Crude and Dishonest: The Golden Age of Madison Avenue. (2015) Booth-Clibborn Editions. ISBN 9781861543721