Demise of a salesman

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ROGER LEVITT was a super-salesman who earned millions. With his sharp-suited image and expensive Davidoff cigars, hand-made and flown in from Cuba, he set out to be the biggest and the best.

His undeniable charisma, backed by all the trappings of success (including a chauffeur-driven Bentley and large mansion) may have played a part in bringing into his business fold Sebastian Coe, the Tory MP and former Olympic gold medallist, and Adam Faith, the singer and actor. Both became directors of Levitt subsidiaries.

He also promoted Lennox Lewis, the heavyweight boxing champion, sitting at ringside during fights, and counted Frederick Forsyth, the thriller writer, as a close friend.

Levitt emerged from a humble background in the East End of London to start his working life as a trainee manager for Marks & Spencer. He moved on to Crown Life and within a few years had become one of its most successful insurance salesmen. In 1977 he set up a two-man business called Roger Levitt Pension Consultants.

Within 10 years Levitt, 44, had built his business into the largest independent company in Britain in the financial services field. At its height the company, operating from headquarters in the West End, employed 450 people in London and six regional offices.

Levitt was never a conventional City figure - he made a corporate video showing him rising at 6am, jogging miles before breakfast and then dashing off to New York on Concorde - but financiers were impressed with his presentational skills.

Then the recession hit and by 1989 things had gone badly wrong. It has been suggested that an inability to delegate and judge those he relied on played a part in his downfall.

Whatever the reason, Levitt tried to cover up his company's desperate difficulties. He lied to Fimbra, the City watchdog, and liquidators who moved in found a company in debt to the tune of pounds 34m.