Obituary: Lord Cayzer

LORD CAYZER was an aristocratic businessman of the old school, a tall, distinguished sportsman who proved to be immensely shrewd at business, noted for his flair, his excellent timing and taking the long view. As a result he left a fortune certainly well above the official estimate of pounds 285m.

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.

Arts and Entertainment
Loading individual letters on to an original Heidelberg printing press
books
Arts and Entertainment
Shades of glory: Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend

Glastonbury Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend will perform with Paul Weller as their warm-up act

Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

    'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

    In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
    VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

    How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

    Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
    They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

    Typefaces still matter in the digital age

    A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
    Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

    'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

    New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
    The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

    Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

    Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

    Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
    Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

    Crisp sales are in decline

    As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
    Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

    Ronald McDonald the muse

    A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
    13 best picnic blankets

    13 best picnic blankets

    Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
    Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

    Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

    Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
    Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

    Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

    Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'