Loner graduated from monastery

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The Independent Online

Peter Middleton was an unlikely choice as chief executive of Lloyd's of London and has spent much of his time there as a bit of a loner. He was detached, some say, from the rest of the Lloyd's establishment.

For one thing, the 55-year-old former diplomat and businessman lacked any experience of the insurance business prior to his appointment in 1992. For another, his social background - he was born in Humberside and spent his childhood in Middlesbrough - made him an unlikely bedfellow of most of the other senior figures at Lloyd's.

Those who appointed him, however, saw his detachment from the Lloyd's catastrophes of the past as a considerable advantage. And there is no doubt he immersed himself in the job with great energy, working an almost permanent six-day week.

He joined Lloyd's with the intention of reaching a settlement with the thousands of names who feel they were conned by the institution in the 1980s, of cutting Lloyd's cost base, and of repairing its image and building up its brand name so that it could go forward to a more prosperous future.

In the event, he spent the largest part of his time getting to know the Names' Action Group representatives and spent less time with the practioners of the insurance business, the brokers and under- writers. When it came to the reconstruction and renewal package for Lloyd's in May, an insider working on the project says, he played little part.

"There's no doubt he's a good crisis manager but many of the brokers and underwriters in the market are unimpressed by the fact that he rarely visits them, rarely come to their drinks parties," a Lloyd's insider said.

Mr Middleton came from a senior business post before joining Lloyd's, but only after a long spell in the Foreign Office. Prior to joining Lloyd's he was group chief executive of Thomas Cook, the travel agent then owned by Midland Bank.

But his curriculum vitae, both on a personal and career level, is far from conventional.

After his school education he chose to join a French monastic order in Devon rather than go to university. He then went to the Foreign Office and from there to Thomas Cook.

Yesterday Tom Benyon, director of the Society of Names, said: "It is a real knock to confidence to find that one of the captains is walking off."