The Business On... Jules Kroll, Founder of Kroll Inc

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The Independent Online

Even the name causes a shiver

Well, he did create the most formidable corporate detective agency in the world, with a staff full of ex-intelligence service folk and prosecutors. Since the 1970s, Kroll has been the go-to agency when the great and the not-so-good want to dig up dirt about their opponents.

So, sinister type, eh?

Not really. He's quite the charmer in person, and a bit of a do-gooder. He got into the business when he was running his father's New York print works and got fed up with rampant bribery in the industry.

Good? Really?

Well, the firm made corporate due diligence a lot more rigorous, and also helped to track down the offshore assets of dictators such as Saddam Hussein and Ferdinand Marcos. It also proved that the death of the Italian banker Roberto Calvi in London in 1982 was murder.

But he's not at Kroll any more, is he?

Correct. He sold the firm for $1.9bn in 2004 and two years ago he retired to spend more time with the $120m cash pile he got from that deal.

He doesn't sound like the retiring kind

No, and now he is on a new mission, to bring his brand of forensic investigation to the business of credit ratings.

We could do with it

Indeed. The failures of the existing rating agencies were devastating. Turns out all those mortgage derivatives they rated AAA were built out of dodgy home loans, and a bit of rooting around in the paperwork might have helped them work that out.

So what is he doing?

He founded Kroll Bond Rating Agency last year and he has now bought a little firm called Lace Financial, which has a rating agency licence, so he is good to challenge the big boys. Standard & Poor's, Moody's, you have been warned.