The Barings anti-hero leaves prison this week as a celluloid celebrity. Whatever happened to the supporting cast? asks Dan Gledhill
This was the business story of the decade, and far, far more besides. It had everything. Working-class boy from Watford defrocks one of Britain's most venerable banking dynasties, conferring infamy on the kind of aristocrats to whom his ancestors bowed and scraped.
The Baring family, a name redolent of country estates maintained with old English money, found its nemesis in a distant corner of Asia reeking of the vulgar nouveau riche.
Simex, Singapore's futures trading floor, was a gladiatorial arena populated by upstart expat British traders vying to make their fortunes in an environment as heartlessly meritocratic as the City of London was effortlessly elitist.
The wealth was instant, and instantly disposable. At night, many traders squandered their cash on Singapore's vibrant nightlife. Even with the reassuring presence of his wife Lisa, it is easy to see how Leeson could lose touch with reality as the losses in his infamous 88888 account multiplied from a few thousand quid to the pounds 860m that ultimately brought the bank down.
Like any ripping yarn, Leeson's romp has left ample material for a series of sequels. There were the botched attempts by the City's pinstriped overlords to save an institution that was very much "One of us". But the financial grandees summoned by the Bank of England to dig Barings out of its hole were dealing with tools they did not understand; derivatives were the instruments of Leeson's generation.
Then there was the ignoble struggle of Leeson's superiors to secure the six-figure bonuses they had "earned", despite presiding over the demise of a 233- year-old institution. Eventually Barings was snapped up by Dutch group ING - renamed ING Barings in memoriam to the passing of a chunk of British history.
A rather more laudable struggle continues to this day and is being fought by the hundreds of bondholders, who in many cases had entrusted their life savings to Barings. Theirs has been a four-and-a half-year saga of unrelenting disappointment which has so far yielded little or nothing of the pounds 100m they lost when Barings collapsed.
And then there is Leeson himself, who is due to be released on Saturday after his four-year sojourn in Singapore's Changi prison. Among his former superiors, heads have rolled and reputations been besmirched, but there was never any question where the buck would stop. After his attempts to escape to British justice, Leeson returned to Singapore via Frankfurt in 1995 to receive an exemplary six-and-a half-year jail sentence. Good behaviour has earned him an early release but colonic cancer clouds a future that he must face without Lisa, who has since left him and remarried.
If Leeson has developed a taste for literature in prison, as many inmates do, he may have alighted on the works of Thomas Hardy to make some sense of the "whirligig" his life had become. Like Michael Henchard in The Mayor of Casterbridge, Leeson's ambition and single-mindedness drove him to unexpected heights. But it was the flipside of these qualities, pride and stubborness, which caused his downfall.
Still, the film studios will be queueing up to make the follow-ups and the supporting cast will come to the fore.
The Baring scion joined the family bank in 1959 and rose smoothly through the ranks to the chairmanship until his brilliant career was rudely interrupted by Leeson's antics.
Although he was cleared of responsibility for the bank's flop, Baring never recovered from the scathing reviews that greeted his performance as lead foil to the rogue trader. Now 63, he has since followed the critics' advice and retired from the City.
As deputy chairman, Tuckey was Peter Baring's understudy and took a similar amount of flak for his role in the debacle. However, he has since tried to revive his career as far as is possible within the confines of a curriculum vitae that includes this performance. He now works as a senior adviser to DLJ Phoenix, the American investment bank.
Of all the main players, Baker was the one most adamant in his refusal to take his roasting lying down. Leeson's immediate boss at the time of the collapse fought a three-year battle for the pounds 880,000 bonus he claims was his based on alleged verbal assurances from Tuckey. Unfortunately, Oxford Crown Court decided otherwise last year and Baker's subsequent career has failed to match the heady days at Barings.
The son of property tycoon John, Nick Ritblat has always refused to reveal the scale of the losses he incurred by backing the Barings flop.
Most galling for Nick, who also sits on the board of British Land, he invested in the project just nine months before the bank's collapse. He has become a figurehead for the other out-of-pocket investors as the battle for compensation continues.
Cast as a rather unlikely white knight, the portly George was Governor of the Bank of England, whose efforts to rally round City bigwigs to the task of rescuing Barings earned widespread criticism.
Unlike his then-deputy Rupert Pennant-Rea, who resigned a month later after the revelation of an affair with a journalist, George has never looked back. He remains in his post and has earned plaudits for his role in "Steady Eddie the Inflation-Buster".
Nick's romantic lead was the great discovery of the Barings epic, but she has chosen not to capitalise on her undoubted box-office appeal. Praised for her unflinching devotion to the story's anti-hero, Lisa eventually tired of living in the shadow of her first great role.
She and Nick divorced and she has chosen a rather less high-profile City banker as her new husband.
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