Peter Meinertzhagen Obituary

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Peter Meinertzhagen, one of the City of London's most successful and revered stockbrokers, who has died suddenly aged 66, liked to pick winners. Stocks and shares, horses, ideas, people, clients – what mattered to him was pitting his wits and coming out on top.

He started his career in the lowly position of postroom clerk in a stockbroking firm in the City, but it was clear from the outset that he would soon rise to greater heights. One reason was his impeccable City pedigree. His father, Daniel, was chairman of the blue-blooded Lazard Bros merchant bank. His uncle Luke was senior partner of Cazenove, the City's most elite and powerful stockbroking business. Further back, the Meinertzhagens had been merchants in Germany before buying a City merchant bank, Frederick Huth & Co, and moving to London in the 1800s. Peter, born in London, was sent first to Eton and then to the Sorbonne in Paris – hardly the usual background for a post room clerk.

But it was not simply his connections that set Meinertzhagen on the path that made him one of the most influential corporate advisers in London, it was also his intelligence and his personality. Meinertzhagen had the gift of making others feel valued – and also feel that he could, above all, be trusted. For him, a successful outcome for his clients, which included many of Britain's top 100 companies, was always more important than securing additional fees for his firm.

He could appear opinionated, compelled to give his honest view even if it went against the grain and was unpopular. But his view was inevitably delivered with charm and a twinkle in the eye. He was not afraid to say "no" when a client proposed a course of action or a deal that he considered against their own interests. His warmth and enthusiasm gave him significant powers of persuasion.

At the daily "morning prayers", meetings of clients with advisers when a deal was in progress, his enjoyment of the thrill of the chase could be infectious. His love of competition was equally evident when wooing potential new clients. He would wine them and dine them, take them shooting or to the races. Derby Day was an inviolate fixture in his calendar.

When he joined Hoare & Co in 1965, the City still operated on the basis that one's word was one's bond and deals sealed with a handshake were as solid as any written contract. This was a tradition with which he felt comfortable and one which, against the tide of changes brought to financial markets by the "big bang" of financial deregulation in 1986, he strove to maintain throughout his career. He regarded the changes as a necessary evil.

It is symptomatic of Meinertzhagen that he remained loyal to the firm that first employed him, and of which he became a partner in 1973. Over the years, the business went through a series of metamorphoses, first by merging with Govett, then by selling a stake to the California bank Security Pacific. Ownership later passed to the Dutch bank ABN Amro, itself taken over by Royal Bank of Scotland, after which Hoare Govett was sold to Jefferies & Co.

Twice he had to step in to stave off crises. The first time was in 1990, when long-time chairman Richard Westmacott suddenly quit. Meinertzhagen assumed the leadership role and remained chairman until 2004 when, after a serious illness, he eased back from the firm, remaining on the board. But the following year, he was playing golf when his mobile rang. His chosen successor, Nigel Mills, had been poached by Citigroup, the US investment bank. Worse, he was taking a team of other Hoare Govett executives with him, and more defections were rumoured. Meinertzhagen returned full-time as chairman and once more stablised the firm before retiring in 2007.

He never spiritually left the City, however, and in 2009 accepted the post as adviser to Oriel Securities, a partnership based on the more traditional values of impartial advice and integrity. It was an environment in which he felt comfortable and, two years ago, he joined the board as a non-executive director, but nevertheless became closely involved in the business, getting to know the staff and assisting the growth of Oriel's client base. He was first on the dance floor at the office party, encouraging younger colleagues to join in.

A fully metropolitan man, Meinertzhagen lived in Chelsea and was to be seen at most of the glamorous events in town. He was equally at home, however, in the country, where he loved to shoot. He married Nikki Phillips in 1967. She survives him, along with four of their five daughters.

• Peter Richard Meinertzhagen, stockbroker, born 16 April 1946; died 28 November 2012

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by David Brewerton, for guardian.co.uk on Thursday 13th December 2012 11.18 Europe/London

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010

 

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