Obituary: Lord Cayzer
Wednesday 21 April 1999
Throughout his life he was a notable spokesman for the shipping industry, although he sensibly shifted much of the family money out of shipping in the 1960s and 1970s. Cayzer's grandfather, Charles Cayzer, founded the Clan Line, owners of what became a 100-strong fleet of ships, most of them tramp steamers sailing round the Cape of Good Hope to India and the Far East. Cayzer's father August was created a baronet in 1904.
Nicholas Cayzer - or Sir Nicholas Cayzer as he was known from the age of 10 in 1921 until he was given a life peerage in 1982 - naturally went to Eton and Cambridge. Equally naturally he started work for the family shipping line in 1931 when he was only 21, becoming a director seven years later. So far so orthodox. But in the 63 years until he finally retired as chairman of the family holding company - by then called Caledonia Investments - he had successfully weathered the transformation of the family business from shipping to a diversified industrial group. (He remained president of the family business until he died).
In the early part of the Second World War Cayzer served in the Army but was soon deploying his managerial talents in organising convoys. After the war his first major coup came in 1955 when, as vice-chairman of the Clan Line, he master-minded Clan's take-over of the Union Castle Line, best known for its fleet of speedy mail liners running between Southampton and Cape Town, thus creating a group, British & Commonwealth Shipping, with 100 vessels. His success was the greater because his unsuccessful rival was Harley Drayton, at the time one of the most feared of City financiers.
After taking over the chairmanship of B & C on the death of his uncle Lord Rotherwick in 1958, Cayzer led the family's retreat from shipping, putting the family fleet into a notably successful joint venture, Overseas Containers, and investing in a number of unrelated businesses. These included British United Airways, a successful independent airline, the private Wellington Hospital in St John's Wood and Gartmore, an investment management firm named after a family estate in Perthshire.
But Cayzer's biggest coup came with the growth of a series of broking and investment businesses within British & Commonwealth. B & C was run by the entrepreneurial John Gunn whose daring business tactics ran against the caution habitually practised by the Cayzer family. Luckily (or cleverly?) the Cayzers decided to sell out of a group which they no longer controlled and did so, receiving pounds 428m for their stake, which represented four-fifths of the family's assets. Their sale was superbly timed, coming only three days before the stockmarket crash of October 1987 and only a short time before the virtual collapse of B & C. Typically, Cayzer bought back control of Exco, the money brokers which had been the foundation of B & C's financial portfolio, for a mere pounds 20m five years after the collapse.
Despite the family's shift away from shipping Cayzer retained an interest in the industry, especially in Liverpool - the home port for the family fleet where he was chairman of the Steamship Owners' Association. He also acted as President of the British Chamber of Shipping and the General Council of British Shipping, and when he was elevated to the peerage by Margaret Thatcher in 1982 he took the title Lord Cayzer of St Mary Axe - the street in the City of London most closely associated with the shipping industry.
The elevation was in recognition of his steadfast support for the Tory Party. He had been chairman of the local Conservative Association in Chester, a town where his uncle had been MP before the war. More importantly he was a generous donor to the party and a fund- raiser through a mysterious body called British United Industrialists.
William Nicholas Cayzer, ship owner and businessman: born 21 January 1910; Bt 1921; created 1982 Baron Cayzer; married 1935 Elizabeth Williams (died 1995; two daughters); died 16 April 1999.
tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods
tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas
comedy Erm...he seems to be back
tvReview: No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa
tv Gymnast Louis Smith triumphed in the Christmas special
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 The Boy in the Dress, TV review: David Walliams' Boxing Day treat is a celebration of being different
- 2 Exclusive: Abusers using spyware apps to monitor partners reaches 'epidemic proportions'
- 3 Andy Murray takes to Twitter to show off his Christmas jumper
- 4 Katie Hopkins speaks out on childhood obesity: 'Parents of fat children should be prosecuted for child cruelty'
- 5 Top 10 travel destinations for 2015: From Haiti and Alaska to Namibia and Iceland
Downton Abbey Christmas special 2014, review: Love is everywhere, actually
The Boy in the Dress, TV review: David Walliams' Boxing Day treat is a celebration of being different
The Interview finally gets US release after Sony hack and terror threats – but reviews of North Korea satire are mixed
Vagina canoe artist defends herself over ‘obscenity’ charges
Doctor Who Christmas special, review: No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
BBC director Danny Cohen: Rising UK antisemitism makes me feel more uncomfortable than ever
Katie Hopkins speaks out on childhood obesity: 'Parents of fat children should be prosecuted for child cruelty'