Roger Jenkins: The banker everybody wants to be seen with

One day he's extracting billions from Arab investors. The next he's hosting a party for Hollywood's biggest stars. So who is Roger Jenkins? By Cahal Milmo
Click to follow
The Independent Online

For a super-banker who made his millions operating below the radar in some of the most obscure corners of international finance, and who once warned: "I guard my privacy", the party was very out of character.

In front of paparazzi, Roger Jenkins and his Bosnian wife, Dijana, welcomed 100 A-list friends – some recently acquired, others longer-standing acquaintances – to their £30m home near Mayfair's Berkeley Square last month for a dinner in aid of the victims of the conflict in Darfur.

It would be difficult to conceive of a higher-octane celebrity guestlist. Co-hosted by the actor George Clooney, attendees included his fellow actors Matt Damon, Sir Michael Caine and Scarlett Johansson, the Irish singer Bono, the model Claudia Schiffer and the fashion designer Roberto Cavalli. The two British television chefs who cooked the food – Ainsley Harriott and Antony Worrall Thompson – worked in the kitchen rather than being invited to mingle. By the time guests left at 3am, some £10m had been raised for Clooney's charity, which campaigns on behalf of Darfur, in eastern Sudan.

Such philanthropic razzmatazz is in contrast to the business modus operandi of Mr Jenkins, who was recently praised as the saviour of his employer, Barclays, after jointly brokering a deal to bring £8bn of Middle Eastern investment to the 300-year-old bank.

Despite his recent trend for hosting Hollywood's upper echelons, Mr Jenkins' preferred place is out of the headlines. In one of his rare interviews, he told the Financial Times: "I don't want to be out and about. I guard my privacy."

His reticence might be put down to the prospect of awkward questions about his brother, David, who won a silver medal for Great Britain in the 4x400m relay at the 1972 Munich Olympics, but was later jailed for his part in a steroid smuggling ring. David served less than a year of his seven-year prison sentence after pledging to tour schools to lecture on the evils of drugs. He now runs a successful dietary supplement business in America. Roger, also a talented athlete, is said to be proud of his brother's achievements.

When asked about his relationship with his friend Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor al-Thani, the Qatari prince and manager of his nation's sovereign wealth fund who now owns 15 per cent of Barclays, Mr Jenkins said the two men and their wives were fans of a quiet night in. "It's not how you would imagine," he said. "We're very down-to-earth people. They're very down-to-earth people. It's lamb and pasta for four at home."

Welcome to the contradictory life – intensely private and dazzlingly public in equal measure – of a so-called "Master of the Universe" who, until recent weeks, few outside the City had heard of.

For the past 14 years, this Edinburgh-educated former international sprinter and son of an oil refinery manager has worked for Barclays. In that time, he has quietly become perhaps Britain's highest-paid employee, with an income that is said to have regularly exceeded that of his millionaire bosses.

In his multi-headed role as chief executive of Barclays Capital's Private Equity, Principal Investments and Structured Capital Markets, the 52-year-old has achieved renown as a master of what is known in the City as tax arbitrage. The area includes a practice called "double dipping", which exploits the differences between the world's tax systems to minimise the exposure of corporations and wealthy individuals to the likes of Britain's HM Revenue and Customs.

It is all completely legal, highly complicated and thoroughly lucrative, and Mr Jenkins is regarded as one of its most accomplished exponents. It is not by accident that his nickname, with tongue firmly in cheek, is "Dodger".

Barclays refuses to discuss the earnings of its staff and, despite his significance to the bank's income (the division he manages is said to have contributed nearly all of Barclays Capital's published profits in 2002), Mr Jenkins is not on the board and so his pay package does not have to be disclosed.

There is no doubt, however, that it is very large. This low-profile eminence chauve is estimated to have made a minimum of £20m a year since 2004 and his take-home for 2005 was revealed by a leading business magazine to have been at least £40m, and possibly as much as £75m.

It is likely that, even in the teeth of a recession that has seen the share price of his employer ravaged, Mr Jenkins will this year earn a comparable sum thanks to the addition last April of another title to his portfolio of Barclays fiefdoms – chairman of investment banking and investment management for the Middle East. He now splits his time between London, the Gulf states and Malibu, where he and his wife have a £5m home.

His reward from the £300m in fees and costs that Barclays paid to the Arab investors and their advisers to seal the deal that allowed the bank to avoid applying for the Government's bailout last November is rumoured to be £30m.

Amanda Staveley, the former model and multimillionaire businesswoman who advised the rulers of Dubai on their purchase of Manchester City Football Club, is thought to have received £40m for her role in bringing the brother of the ruler of Abu Dhabi into the deal.

But, while the huge transaction may have prevented Barclays from having to join its high street confreres such as Royal Bank of Scotland and HBOS in accepting Government money to stave off collapse, there are worrying signs that it will have unforeseen consequences for Mr Jenkins' ultimate boss – Barclays' chief executive, John Varley.

Mr Varley robustly denied claims last week that Barclays could be forced to seek public funding after all as the bank's share price staged a fightback from less than 50p during the week. But, if the recovery stalls at any point in the next six months and it does have to raise new capital, it would trigger a clause in the deal with Sheikh al-Thani (who is also the Qatari Prime Minister) and his co-investors that could allow them to take control of Barclays.

One senior analyst told The Independent: "That scenario has certainly receded but that is not the same as it being impossible. There are large institutional investors who would be very unhappy indeed if they saw their shareholding diluted by the arrival of new ownership at a discounted rate. [If this happened] I don't think Roger Jenkins would be considered in quite the same light."

In the meantime, Mr Jenkins' stock continues to rise. One former Barclays staffer said: "It's easy to dismiss Roger as some kind of big-brained technocrat who has profited massively from his technical knowledge of how to pull off a massive bit of arbitrage. The reality is that he's a far better operator than he is a technocrat. There are very few people who can extract that sort of money from the Gulf sovereign funds. Believe me, many have tried but very, very few have succeeded. Amanda [Staveley] is one and Roger is just about the only other. With contacts like that you just name your price."

At the heart of these entrepreneurial coups for Mr Jenkins is his wife, Sanela Dijana Jenkins. It was she who befriended the wife of Sheikh al-Thani and introduced the couple to her husband while they were on holiday in Sardinia last year. Indeed, it was also Mrs Jenkins, with the aid of her formidable address book, who helped to organise the Darfur party at the family home – which consists of three once-separate houses joined together. A Bosnian Muslim who escaped her native Sarajevo during the civil war, Dijana is a committed socialite whose friends include Mick Jagger, the fashion designer Stella McCartney and the former model Cindy Crawford. She was a bridesmaid at the actress Pamela Anderson's wedding to the singer Kid Rock.

Dijana and Roger Jenkins, who have a young son and daughter together, say they met while she was a student on a finance course that he was teaching at London's City University. At the time of their marriage in 1999, Dijana was writing a thesis with the title "Minimising Withholding Taxes in a Multinational Corporate Structure".

While her husband shies away from the cameras, the same cannot be said for Mrs Jenkins. As well as having a brush with the tabloids when she was seen on a night out with the footballer Rio Ferdinand, she was more recently photographed for The New York Times stepping down from husband's Gulfstream jet at the Aspen ski resort in Colorado wearing a £6,500 poncho made with mink fur. Offering a gloss on her journey from being a refugee to a member of a small group of the globetrotting super-rich, the woman who announced last month that she was setting up a company with the actor Will Smith to sell films in the Middle East, said: "[Private air travel] is part of the lifestyle. It's very addictive. Once you've done it, you want to do it again."

Behind such a celebrity-centred lifestyle, which also includes a 49 per cent stake in a beachwear operation, lies some less hedonistic work. Last year, with the help of her £2m endowment, the University of California opened the Sanela Diana Jenkins International Justice Clinic, based on the idea of bringing the perpetrators of war crimes before the courts.

The establishment of the centre in Los Angeles was a direct result of the death of Mrs Jenkins' brother, Irnis, who was killed during the Bosnian war in Sarajevo. Mrs Jenkins also oversees a charitable foundation set up in her brother's name which funds schools and orphanages and environmental work in Bosnia.

A Barclays spokesman said that, although Mr Jenkins also makes charitable donations, he does not disclose their size or destination. When asked whether events such as last month's party were a signal that the banker is adopting a more public profile, he said: "He prefers to remain private." Instead, it seems that "Brand Jenkins" will continue to be spearheaded by Mrs Jenkins. In a rare public comment on his personal life, Mr Jenkins said: "She is my consigliere and counsellor. And she knows a lot of people."