9780140286687 / 0140286683

The Death of Gentlemanly Capitalism (Penguin business)


Publisher:Penguin Global



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About the book:

Philip Augar arrived in the City of London a callow graduate in the late 1970s, stunned by a world where jobs were casually offered over long and boozy lunches, where your school tie was more important than anything you knew about investment. A City whose "institutions and values reflected the pillars of conservative England: the public school, the gentleman's club and the country house". Twenty years later, having held key positions in London banks, and enjoying a salary of more than 1m a year, Augar was still troubled. He reveals an unreal world, where investment banks lost money for decades while amateurish bosses, raised in the cloistered and deferential realms of public school and National Service ran multi-million pound operations on a nod, wink and plenty of alcohol.

Centuries of tradition were coming to an end. With Big Bang in 1986 the banks pursued a lunatic course that led to meltdown just years later. Freed from regulatory limits and allowed to mix brokerage and merchant banking, as well as enter the global market, the Londoners' lack of control was their undoing. Salaries went crazy and, by the millennium, the English merchant banks that dominated the Stock Exchange were gone--bought, faded or, in the case of Barings, spectacularly imploded.

The Death of Gentlemanly Capitalism is a sad tale of British arrogance and complacency to rank with anything our motor industry can throw up. It's also a page-turning, stranger-than-fiction read, packed with larger than life characters, scandal, corruption and incompetence. Go to City boardrooms today--no longer in the Square Mile, but perched on the upper floors of Canary Wharf, and the trappings are still there. Augar relates with amusement a recent trip to Docklands, where an inventory of the boardroom reveals "two framed prints of English hunting scenes, one gilt-framed mirror, one antique side table, Regency striped curtains with drape ties". All fake of course. Behind the Regency curtains lie the walls of a 1990s office block, and behind the old school tie sits a foreign owner. --John Rennie

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