Obituary: Geoffrey Maitland Smith, accountant

Geoffrey Maitland Smith. Picture: Contributed
Geoffrey Maitland Smith. Picture: Contributed
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BORN: 27 February, 1933, in London. Died: 6 May, 2014, in London, aged 81.

As a City accountant and businessman Geoffrey Maitland Smith advised two of the most prominent, and wealthiest, men in Britain. Maitland Smith acted as accountant to Sir Charles Clore, the industrialist and owner of such high street stores as British Shoe, William Hill and Selfridges. While still working for Clore he was introduced to Paul McCartney with whom he formed a close business understanding and advised on many of the megastar’s most successful investments.

When The Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein, died in 1967 the Fab Four needed financial advice and McCartney was put in touch with Maitland Smith, a partner at the accountants Thornton Baker (now Grant Thornton).

While the other Beatles went elsewhere for advice McCartney and Maitland Smith soon formed a good relationship. The pop star asked Maitland Smith to open an account with the renowned City bank, NM Rothschild.

At a meeting in the bank Maitland Smith was informed that Rothschild did not act on behalf of rock stars. “It’s a pity about that,” Maitland Smith calmly replied, “because I have a banker’s draft for £1 million in my suitcase.”

He was rapidly assured that perhaps, on this occasion, Rothschilds could make an exception.

Another major deal Maitland Smith pulled off for McCartney was surrounding the purchase of the estate and farm he bought near Campbeltown on the Kintyre peninsula.

McCartney had seen it advertised in a glossy magazine and instructed Maitland Smith to buy the property exactly as it had been advertised – including the sheep that were grazing in a nearby field.

The deal went through without a problem and Maitland Smith reported the good news to McCartney whose first question was: “How many sheep have I got?” Maitland Smith realised he had made no particular deal on the sheep and dashed up to Scotland to ensure that the 212 sheep were included in the purchase.

McCartney often spent time at the farm with his first wife, Linda Eastman, and their young children. They grew to love the countryside and the west coast of Scotland and it inspired one of his most memorable hits, Mull of Kintyre.

Maitland Smith provided the acceptable face for Clore’s empire. Clore had made a fortune in the 1950s and needed a well-known City figure to give Sears Holdings (his quoted company) a sense of stability and respectability. In his 25-years at Sears Maitland Smith acted as the chief executive from 1978 and chairman from 1985. Handsome, elegant, and invariably courteous, he often walked round Selfridges checking on the counters and remembering the names of the staff from the annual Christmas party he hosted at Claridge’s. Throughout the store he was affectionately known as GMS.

He retired in 1995 and was chairman of Hammerson, the property company and some other financial institutions.

Maitland Smith was thrice married. His marriage to Patricia Lane was dissolved in 1967, that to Gabriella Armandi was dissolved in 1981 and he married Lucinda Whyte in 1986. She and three sons and a daughter of his first marriage and a son and daughter of his second survive him.