Who's the fat cat in the hat? The rich world of Rich Ricci
He's just banked £44m from Barclays - and as owner of a Grand National favourite, he's set for another payday
Should bookies' favourite The Midnight Club cross the finish line first at Aintree today, he will propel a once intensely private person yet further into the limelight.
Not many people outside the world of finance had heard of the 10- year-old horse's owner, Rich Ricci, before his employers, Barclays Capital, deemed him worthy of a £44m payout last month.
"Fucking press," was the ebullient American's greeting to an approaching newspaper journalist at the Cheltenham Festival a few weeks ago, where his horse, Zaidpour, had underperformed. Lest the BBC wants a Rooney-esque scandal of their own on their hands, it is a tale they may wish to heed before pointing a camera lens in his direction.
Very little is known about Mr Ricci, who replaced "Uncle" Bob Diamond as the co-chief executive of Barclays Capital, the bank's investment banking arm. Diamond, now the group's overall CEO, is spoken of in mythical terms throughout the bank's Canary Wharf headquarters. Not so Ricci. "He's bald and he gets shit done, that's all we know," said one director.
Many of the giants of Wall Street and the City arrive at their positions via years on trading floors, and are forever haunted by tales of their Bacchanalian past. Ricci on the other hand rose through the ranks of the operations and technology departments at Barclays, spending several years as the group's chief operating officer before assuming the top job.
But don't expect to get a glimpse of that shiny pate today; however private a persona the brilliantly-named financier may cultivate, it is more than offset by a penchant for radical tailoring. His Homburg hats, Wayfarer shades and garish green three-piece attracted unfavourable comment from a racing fraternity far less envious of the content of his wardrobe than that of his stables.
The Midnight Club is one of many top-rated horses regularly seen racing in the colours of Susannah Ricci, his English wife of 11 years. Among others is Allure of Illusion, also racing today in the Champion Standard Open. Mr and Mrs Ricci travel to Dublin by private jet every weekend to watch them race and to visit Willie and Jackie Mullins, the legendary trainers who maintain his prized string.
Since the roar of the Celtic Tiger quietened to a barely audible miaow, Irish racing has done a bit of a Devon Loch, yet the Riccis are as committed as ever.
"I often get calls from trainers in England wondering why I don't have horses in training there, considering I'm based in England," he told the Racing Post, just before Christmas, and before the arrival of the gargantuan pay packet that made Rich Ricci the poster boy for nominative determinism – the idea that a person's name influences their job or interests. "But I just love Irish racing. The people are fantastic, the atmosphere is really good and the prize-money is still attractive. My wife and I get a real buzz from it."
Mr Ricci admits to some pre-race nerves and likes to watch races by himself at the rails, daring to look only when the horses jump, before looking away again. The buzz of owning a National winner is more than augmented, for most, by the accompanying cheque for £550,000 – though for Ricci, it is considerably shy of a week's wages.
Though undoubtedly a shrewd operator in the world of finance, his horses are something of an indulgence. Jump racing is rarely a profitable business for owners. The Midnight Club is 10 years old, considered a perfect age for success in the National, but far past the peak years of flat racing horses, where opportunities to sell stud rights are far greater.
Private jets notwithstanding, the Riccis lead a relatively modest life. The couple live in a £1m mansion in Borough Green in Kent, with seven bedrooms, three reception rooms and an outdoor pool.
The house went on the market shortly before Ricci received his payout: £700,000 salary, a £10.6m bonus and £30m from previous share deals. That his name became public is a result solely of Project Merlin, the recent agreement between the Government and the banks to improve transparency, which requires banks to publish the compensation of their five top earners. Ricci was named as "individual 2" in the bank's statement, but the simultaneous release of a UK stock market announcement detailing their share sales made it easy to match up the names.
Originally from Nebraska, Ricci came to Barclays via a bachelor's degree in finance at Creighton University, and jobs at the Bank of Boston and the Bank of New England. His Alma Mater, a small Jesuit university slap bang in the middle of the United States, deems him unworthy of a mention in its list of notable alumni – a handful of basketball and baseball players and the billionaire owner of the Chicago Cubs. It was not until the world collapsed in 2008 that his star rose and he entered that Valhalla of vilified bankers – one who emerged from the carnage an even richer man.
If anyone can be worth a £44m in a single year – here is why. On 11 September 2008, Ricci, Bob Diamond and Jerry Del Missier (now Ricci's co-chief executive at Barclays Capital) took the last flight from Heathrow to New York, with the intention of buying Lehman Brothers. What they did next regularly carries the moniker of the deal of the decade. The negotiations were fraught and complex, spawning legal disputes which were only fully resolved in February this year. Ricci led negotiations between Barclays and Lehman's lawyers and their clearing bank, JP Morgan. Both sides, it is said, called each other thieves, with JP Morgan "trying to bully Ricci" and Ricci showing that he "doesn't bully well". Five days later, Diamond, also an American, came on the intercom at Lehman's vast Manhattan office, the company by this point having filed for bankruptcy, and told traders they would still get paid and would not lose their jobs. In an act of calculated mischievousness, they played "God Save The Queen" down the intercom, but the traders stood up, cried and applauded.
As a direct result, Barclays never took a government bailout, and what was once a traditional British bank, is now a major global investment bank, of which Ricci is the boss. Watching his horses lose is an experience the nerve-racked banker describes as: "Like going to a job interview and then puking all over yourself." Only 11 favourites have won the famous race in the past 100 years, so your sympathies will likely be better extended not to the Beeb's cameraman, but to Mr Ricci's flamboyant tailor – although he's probably got a few quid too.
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