Enigma at heart of 'ice maiden'

Good Times, Bad Times: The Business Personalities Of The Year
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The Independent Online
In many ways it was the British success story of the year. Unheralded redbrick university graduate (Leicester) finds her way to the City. Lands a job as a librarian at the renowned merchant bank SG Warburg.

Begins to read the company research reports and is asked to look out for bankers. Starts offering her views on the material she is doling out. Gets noticed. Gets her break.

Starts as junior fund manager, climbs to the top. Earns pounds 6m in 1996 as vice-chairman of Mercury Asset Management, the fund management arm of Warburg which in 1995 went independent when the merchant bank was taken over by Swiss Bank Corp.

Reaps a pounds 10m windfall in November when the US investment bank Merrill Lynch acquires MAM for pounds 3.1bn. Continues to run MAM and thus cements her position as the most powerful woman in the City.

Despite all this, Carol Galley remains the most mysterious business personality of the year. Dubbed the "ice maiden" by headline writers, her understated personal style, and her sharp but dispassionate investment judgements, friends say that in reality she is a warm and wonderful human being.

The question left hanging by MAM's sale to Merrill - a good candidate for deal of the year - is this: did Galley, MAM chairman Hugh Stevenson and deputy chairman Stephen Zimmerman do right by MAM's shareholders in the long run?

In the short run there is no question - Merrill paid the full price for MAM. But what about in seven or eight years' time when Merrill has earned back the cost of its investment? How will the fact that the City's premier fund management firm is foreign-owned look then?