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Lord Browne's Circle Once Included Elton

Wednesday 2 May 2007 @ 16:15 - GMT

British Petroleum boss Lord Browne was forced to quit yesterday after lying about a gay affair with a lover less than half his age.

The 59-year-old, who was known to have socialised with Elton, worked for the oil giant for 41 years and was due to retire in just two months, according to the Daily Mirror. He misses out on a £15million pay-off.

He resigned after he lied to a court about how he met his lover of four years, Jeff Chevalier, 27. Lord Browne was trying to stop details of his affair being made public. Chevalier told how the tycoon discussed meetings with Tony Blair and Gordon Brown during pillow talk.

The sister of Browne's ex discussed how they lived ''a champagne lifestyle'' - with the besotted tycoon lavishing luxuries on the younger man.

Courtney Chevalier said nothing in 27-year-old Jeff's modest upbringing as one of six children had prepared him for a life hobnobbing with stars and jetting all over world.

"We were brought up in Canada in a single parent family. We didn't have much money. It was incredible for Jeff to experience this lifestyle change."

Courtney, who knew Lord Browne simply as "John", added: "Jeff had free rein of John's credit card. Once when he had problems getting back into the UK, John wired 25,000 Canadian dollars into his bank.

"Jeff gradually frittered it away. It was incredible. He could spend £1,200 on a suit. It was quite shocking really."

Courtney regularly visited the pair at Browne's three English homes.

During one summer visit the peer whisked her, elder sister Vanessa and Jeffrey off to his palatial home in Venice.

She said: "Jeffrey even saw Elton John's place in Venice. He said it was amazing inside. Once we went to a sushi restaurant in London and Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin were on the next table. It all seemed so surreal.

"Tony Blair was often at some of the parties my brother went to. That sort of thing just became normal for him."

Lord Browne, who split up with Chevalier last year, resigned from BP after losing a legal fight to stop his ex-beau telling of their life together. He had previously won an injunction banning a newspaper from printing the embarrassing kiss and tell revelations.

But it was lifted yesterday after the millionaire admitted he had lied to the High Court about how he met Chevalier--through a gay website, not at a park, as he first stated.

Lord Browne could now face perjury charges - and a potential jail term if convicted. BP confirmed that the peer, due to retire in July after 41 years with the firm, would lose his entitlement to a leaving package worth more than £15million by quitting.

Chevalier is expected to claim that Lord Browne used BP's resources to help him set up a mobile phone ring-tone firm that failed.

Courtney said yesterday she was baffled over why Browne went to so much trouble to keep his relationship with Chevalier secret.

She said: "I'm sure the public won't care about his homosexuality. So why cause so much grief?"

Courtney added that when the pair broke up, it was difficult for her sibling.

"It was a very intense affair. They loved each other but when someone is in such a high-profile position it's difficult to maintain normality."

In court papers, Chevalier said he had difficulty adjusting after the split because he had been "a kept man" for so long.

He said the tycoon had vowed "if needed he'd assist in the first year of me transitioning from living in multi-million pound homes around the world, flying in private jets, five star hotels, £2,000 suits and so on to a less-than-modest life in Canada".

Lord Browne said it was a "matter of deep regret" that he had lied. But he added: "I have always regarded my sexuality as a personal matter, to be kept private."