Humble origins of man who brought down aristocrats

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The Independent Online
Only 20 miles separate the back garden of the council estate where Nick Leeson grew up (above left) from Barings boardroom in the City (pictured above right in happier days in the 1920s). The two may be worlds apart but fate brought the young Mr Leeson together with the oldest name in British banking, writes Will Bennett.

The Baring family could comfortably fill its own special supplement of Debrett's Illustrated Peerage, reflecting its position within the British establishment for over two centuries.

There is Lord Ashburton (John Francis Harcourt Baring), Lord Cromer (Evelyn Rowland Esmond Baring), Lord Howick of Glendale (Charles Evelyn Baring), Lord Northbrook (Francis Thomas Baring) and Lord Revelstoke (John Baring).

Lord Ashburton is a former managing director of the merchant bank which collapsed at the weekend as is Lord Howick, while Lord Northbrook worked there for eight years.

The present chairman of the company is Peter Baring, son of Francis Baring, who was killed in the Second World War and Lady Rose Baring, who was once a Lady-in-Waiting to the Queen. Mr Baring, 59, went to Cambridge and joined the family firm in 1959. He was made a director in 1967 and became chairman in 1989. His salary is £1,242,000 a year and he is the younger brother of Nicholas Baring, chairman of Commercial Union, who was deputy chairman of Barings from 1986 to 1989. At least three other members of the family worked at the bank.

The present list of directors features the family name less often than it used to but it is still a roll call of the establishment. There is the Honourable John Russell, half brother of Lord Ampthill, educated at Eton. His family motto is "what will be, will be". He sits on the board alongside the 7th Earl of Verulam, a director since 1987, an Eton and Christ Church Oxford man.

Andrew St George, a City historian, said: "Barings became part of the establishment by offering dependable advice, by being close to governments in the 18th and 19th centuries and by maintaining a socially elevated position. It was really the last of the merchant banks in the sense that it made its money by backing people and projects rather than by trading."