The real man behind the myth that is Ian Hannam

Who is the grammar-school millionaire who won't pay his £450,000 without a fight? asks Mark Leftly

Mary must be glad of the Easter break. Her phone didn't stop ringing last week as clients and journalists tried to get hold of her boss, Ian Hannam, who had diverted calls from his mobile to his office.

On Tuesday, Hannam was revealed as the long-rumoured prize scalp in the Financial Services Authority's year-long crackdown on the City. Most notably, the FSA had fined poker-playing tycoon David Einhorn and star broker Andrew Osborne £3.7m and £350,000 respectively for market abuse over a share scandal involving a Punch Taverns fundraising.

But Hannam, one of the best known rainmakers to have walked the Square Mile, is the shocker. JPMorgan's head of capital markets has been slapped with a £450,000 penalty, over a few words at the end of a note to a client, informing them that Heritage Oil had struck black gold. "Non-deliberate market abuse," cried the FSA.

Einhorn, Osborne, and Hannam all fumed at their fines, arguing they had done nothing wrong. All have the sympathies and even the backing of at a sizeable minority of their peers, rivals and clients who believe that the FSA has messed up.

But there the similarity ends. Unlike the Punch Taverns duo, Hannam is fighting his fine: it concerns him not that it will almost certainly become a two-year emotional, legal and financial nightmare.

No one should be surprised. The 56-year-old didn't become "King of the miners" or a regular in the Evening Standard's top 1,000 Londoners through self-doubt, a lack of bravado, or a tendency to back out of a scrap.

Early days

The potted background is well-known, but worth recounting. Hannam was raised in the tough Bermondsey neighbourhood of south-east London.

Although he's made millions over the years and hangs around with brilliantly educated men and women from the society's upper echelons, the roots are obvious. He drops his Ts and Hs in an estuary accent, and is happier breakfasting at, an admittedly delicious, greasy spoon near Portobello Market than grander City dining rooms.

Hannam's mystique is built around his military background: He was a captain in the Territorial Army's version of the SAS and, despite being a little well-padded, is said to be a fitness freak. He is also clever, a grammar-school boy whose mathematical mind was trained at Imperial College. A friend says that though Hannam was given a standing ovation after a defiant speech as he left JPMorgan's trading floor last week, those natural traits and self-knowingly brilliant mind have created enemies: "Look at him, a Millwall supporter from the wrong side of the tracks, bright as a button, but seriously not everybody's cup of tea."

One long-term rival goes so far as to describe Hannam as "a big ego, a slightly less charming version of Dudley Moore from Arthur".

After university he joined construction group Taylor Woodrow as an engineer, working in countries that then still had a whiff of danger about them, including Nigeria and Oman. He became a banker in 1984, when he joined Salomon Brothers and zipped up the ranks as he adopted what were then considered US methods of banking that caught the eyes of the top brass.

Aged just 35, a number of banks courted him with salaries and bonus packages that would have taken him to close to £1m a year. Hannam joined merchant bank Robert Fleming at, he claimed, a fraction of those offers, but it gave him a taste of fame as the main man on the Wellcome Trust's £2.2bn sale of shares in drugmaker Wellcome.

Becoming a mining man

That Wellcome deal is a reminder that Hannam is a generalist. In fact, in 2009, nearly a decade after Fleming became part of JPMorgan, he rebuilt the balance sheets of HSBC and Land Securities in the wake of the financial crisis. But he remains best known for his connections to the world's great mining deals and, to a lesser extent, oil & gas.

He developed that reputation as one of the bankers who put together the $40bn deal that turned BHP Billiton into one the world's biggest miner. "This often happens," explains one leading mining banker. "You get heavily involved in one or two big deals in a sector and then you become forever linked with it."

The second "big deal" that cemented his reputation was the flotation of Xstrata, which he then helped to build into one of the world's most successful commodities groups. Today, it is in the middle of a £56bn merger with Glencore, which Xstrata spun-out of a decade ago.

However, the Xstrata that is around today might never have existed. Originally, Glencore had planned to sell-off its South African and Australian coal assets in a company called Enex, but the flotation was pulled following the 9/11 attacks. Commodities prices tanked but a fellow architect of the BHP Billiton merger, Mick Davis, was then running Glencore subsidiary Xstrata. Hannam helped Davis list Xstrata and immediately double the company in size by taking on those coal assets.

"Hannam's original power base was in South Africa as a result of the flotation," says an industry source. And natural resources appealed to his machismo, so Hannam was among the first to spot potential in mines and oilfields based in Kazakhstan, India and off the east African coast.

The critic who compared him unfavourably to Arthur, concedes: "He is a visionary and you have to admire someone who throws themselves into those kind of dirty situations." And that admiration meant he could get away with some extraordinary flannel. "He would use this very flowery language in meetings. You would sit and cringe. It was like something from a bad Hollywood film – but the client would believe he could move mountains."

Troublemaker

There's no doubt Hannam had front. On one deal, Hannam made some fairly big claims that many potential investors simply couldn't buy. Apparently, he went round to the home of a senior director to back up him up and, when the man's wife said he wasn't home, insisted on waiting in the kitchen. For hours.

Hannam got into huge trouble in 2007 when he discussed an Omani-backed $60bn buyout of Dow Chemicals – one of JPMorgan's biggest clients. That didn't stop him trying to get the top job at JPMorgan Cazenove – a joint venture of investment bank and blue-blooded stockbroker partly conceived by Hannam – just a year later.

Hannam has excellent press contacts, which saw him tipped as a potential boss and was probably the reason he was even interviewed. "No one pushed for him to be in charge," says one former colleague. "He's a business machine, but there are things he can and can't do."

There was plenty of talk that he would leave, though it was not until a rather innocuous-looking PS at the end of that note about Heritage Oil was discovered that he finally offered his resignation. Hannam has agreed to stay at JPMorgan until the Glencore-Xstrata merger is completed

The Future

Hannam hasn't lost his banking licence, but as he has a reputation for acting like he is the client rather than adviser, people think he will head up or become a director at a mining company.

An obvious possibility is Afghan Gold. He convinced JP Morgan's chief executive Jamie Dimon that the bank should help establish and then advise an Afghanistan start-up for free. The mineral market there could one day be worth $3 trillion according to some estimates, and Hannam convinced some big names, including gold mining magnate Peter Hambro and former BHP Billiton chief executive Chip Goodyear, to put money into the venture.

Last year, an article appeared in Fortune magazine that heavily praised Hannam's work in developing Afghanistan. It's a mark of his myth that many thought the article was influenced by his wife, who was said to run a public relations firm. Apparently she is actually an American lawyer.

However, anyone who has spoken to Hannam privately in recent years will know that his Afghanistan project, the idea of saving a desperate and dangerous land through capitalism, thrills him. It is, some have argued, what Hannam sees as his legacy.

The smart money says that once he has had his time in the ring with the FSA, Hannam will take on Afghanistan.

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