`Midwife of privatisation' finds niche

James Bethell on the head of Smith New Court's departure to Hambro Maga n
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The Independent Online
Sir Michael Richardson, the financier who served as midwife to Britain's privatisation programme, has found a new vehicle for his corporate finance skills ahead of what he predicts will be the next financial revolution in the world of electricity , gas and water - and in his own back yard of the City.

The Old Harrovian, 69, is leaving the chairmanship of Smith New Court to become executive chairman of JO Hambro Magan, the boutique corporate finance house run by George Magan, an old rival in the world of bids and deals.

He says that, as Big Bang Two and the shake-out among the utilities gathers steam in the year ahead, the services of an independent corporate finance house will be in high demand. Sir Michael first showed his skill as a partner at Panmure Gordon but madehis mark at NM Rothschild, which has collected Lord Wakeham, former Leader of the House of Lords, as a director.

Sir Michael's Rothschilds connection helped him deliver a string of lucrative privatisation contracts. He still manages money for Baroness Thatcher. He has close friendships with a number of leading businessmen including Lord King and Lord Hanson. But Sir Michael has also had other, more controversial, friends, including the fugitive Asil Nadir, and the late Robert Maxwell.

He retains board positions at Rank Foundation, the Savoy Hotel and Sedgwick Group. Recently at Smith New Court, the old-school charm of the keen huntsman and sailor seemed increasingly incongruous on a board dominated by Michael Marks, the former gold trader. However, at JO Hambro Magan, Sir Michael will find a suitable home for his remarkable deal-making skills, repeatedly proven over the years.

Hambro Magan was founded by Rupert and James Hambro in February 1988 with their partners, and Alton Irby, former deputy chairman of Sedgwick, and George Magan, former head of corporate finance at Morgan Grenfall and now chairman of Magan's.

Under his chairmanship the 35-person Westminster-based business has been at the centre of £15bn of deals including the £1.6bn takeover of Jaguar by Ford, the £950m takeover of Morgan Grenfall by Deutsche Bank and the £1.5bn takeover of Hawker Siddeley byBTR.

Sir Michael says Magan faces its busiest year yet. "The trend in the City is towards enormous integrated businesses and this opens up the field to independent advisers not caught up in conflicts of interest."

Sir Michael sees a rash of consolidation sweeping the City in the year ahead. "Although Warburg messed it up, the rising share prices of Kleinwort Benson, Smith New Court and the others suggest the days of the independent broker and merchant bank are numbered."