Obituary: Sir Philip Shelbourne

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The Independent Online
Philip Shelbourne, lawyer and financier: born 15 June 1924; Barrister specialising in taxation 1951-62; Partner, NM Rothschild & Sons 1962-70; Chief Executive, Drayton Corporation 1971-72; Chairman, Drayton Group and Drayton Corporation 1973-74; Chairman and Chief Executive, Samuel Montagu & Co 1974- 80; Chairman and Chief Executive, BNOC 1980-82; Chairman, Britoil 1982-88; Kt 1984; Deputy Chairman, Panel on Take-overs and Mergers 1987- 91; Chairman, Henry Ansbacher Holdings 1988-91; died Salisbury 15 April 1993.

PHILIP SHELBOURNE was a senior member of the team built up by the Rothschild family in the 1960s to transform NM Rothschild and Sons from a private family business into a player in the much more public arena involving corporate finance and takeovers and mergers.

Shelbourne started his City career when he gave up the Bar to take up a partnership at NM Rothschild in 1962, and he, with Jacob Rothschild and Rodney Leach, formed a team whose intellectual capabilities were rarely matched by any merchant bank in the City in the late Sixties. Through their efforts the bank rapidly became an important force.

He developed close relationships with a number of leading businessmen either through providing advice on takeovers or through contribution as a member of their boards. Early successes he masterminded included acting for the Showering family in their bid for IDV and the subsequent merger of their brewing business into Allied Breweries where the Showering family then played a leading role for a number of years. He displayed his single-mindedness in winning for his clients on behalf of the Industrial Reorganisation Corporation, the formation of the UK ball-bearing manufacturer Ransome Hoffmann Pollard and the defence of the property group MEPC from the clutches of Commercial Union/Trafalgar House.

Those who were fortunate enough to work with him were taught the importance of providing clear and concise advice to clients, without a host of reasons and caveats, together with the need to be fully prepared with complete research, suitable for every eventuality. One of his great qualities was always to make time available to those who sought his advice, irrespective of whether they were a senior industrialist or junior employee.

In 1971 Shelbourne was asked by the Drayton Group to move in as chief executive to develop Drayton as a merchant bank. After four years he appreciated that the future of the small merchant bank with a general portfolio of business was limited and he negotiated its sale to the Midland Bank, who then merged it with their own merchant bank Samuel Montagu with Shelbourne taking over as executive chairman in 1974. By this time he had moved away from the detailed work of leading for his clients in takeover transactions but his advice was continually sought not only by the British government at the highest level but also by a wide range of businessmen both within the UK and outside. In 1980 he was asked by the Government to take on the chairmanship of BNOC part of which in due course became Britoil.

Shelbourne engendered very strong feelings and this in part came through his own personality and his forthright views. He always remained totally loyal to his friends.

He was a lifelong bachelor, his great interest being antiques, the opera and his dogs. In 1986 he purchased a Queen Anne House in the Close in Salisbury which for many years had been the home of the historian Sir Arthur Bryant. He brought the house and garden up to the very high standard he applied to everything he involved himself in and finally moved there five years ago. Unfortunately this coincided with a deterioration in his health so that he never had the opportunity to enjoy this environment to the full.

(Photograph omitted)

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