Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, on Monday provided further evidence that he is stepping up his presidential campaign for 2008 when he sold his boutique investment bank, Giuliani Capital Partners, addressing concerns about potential conflicts of interest and adding to his warchest of campaign financing.

The terms of the sale to Macquarie Group, an Australian financial group, were not disclosed but analysts said that Giuliani Capital Advisors could be worth as much as $100m. It represents a large chunk of Mr Giuliani’s business interests, which he began building in early 2002, shortly after leaving his post as mayor.

GCA advises on mergers and acquisitions and restructurings in sectors such as infrastructure, energy, and property. Although largely US-based, it has advised on several international deals, particularly in Germany and the UK. It came under Mr Giuliani’s umbrella in 2004, trebling the size of his business interests, which were mostly confined to Giuliani Partners, a management consultancy. A spokesman for GP declined to comment on whether it would also be sold.

After months of being coy about his intentions Mr Giuliani has emerged as the Republican frontrunner, benefiting from strong name recognition, celebrity status from 9/11 and doubts about Senator John McCain and his advocacy of the unpopular troop surge in Iraq.

A Newsweek poll at the weekend showed that in a head-to-head contest with Mr McCain, he jumped into a 25-point lead, with 59 per cent to 34 per cent for McCain. That compared with just a 4 per cent edge in a January poll. Mr Giuliani came second this weekend in a straw poll of conservative activists at the Conservative Political Action conference.

On Tuesday Mr Giuliani will add to his resources with a fundraiser in Palo Alto hosted by Floyd Kvamme, a leading technology veteran from Silicon Valley who served on the National Finance Committee for President George W Bush.

Although he is a social conservative, Mr Kvamme is willing to overlook Mr Giuliani’s liberal positions. “You can’t help but be impressed by his leadership on 9/11. He was the bright shining star that day,” he said, adding: “Rudy Giuliani is a strict constructionist and wants judges who don’t make laws from the bench. I’m comfortable with that.”

Charlie Cook, editor of the Cook Political Report, warned that three-quarters of those surveyed in a recent Gallup poll were unaware of Mr Giuliani’s views on abortion and gay marriage.

“His backers are mostly conservatives and evangelicals drawn by his 9/11 strong leadership. That support will melt like an ice cream cone in August once abortion, guns, gay rights, Vietnam draft, marriage to his second cousin, and infidelities come out.”

In a hint of those potential problems, Andrew Giuliani, his son from his second marriage, told ABC this weekend that he “got his values from his mother” and had “problems with my father”, but added that he would still make “a great President”.

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