Inside the life of city’s financial whizz Roger Jenkins

Stepping out with Elle Macpherson
Stepping out with Elle Macpherson
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TOGETHER they are the bald and the beautiful.

When Roger Jenkins and Elle Macpherson stepped out at a dinner in Washington, heads turned and not least because financial whiz Jenkins – said to be worth £300 million – is notoriously private.

Roger Jenkins wins the 400m at Meadowbank in 1975

Roger Jenkins wins the 400m at Meadowbank in 1975

Indeed, since his early days as an amateur athlete in Edinburgh where he was overshadowed by his brother, David, on the running track, Jenkins has attempted to stay out of the spotlight. He once said in a rare interview: “I don’t want to be out and about. I guard my privacy.”

He managed to do so until, climbing the ladder of corporate success at Barclays by inventing a spectacularly effective tax avoidance scheme, he became so well remunerated that his pay packet started to make headlines.

Then, when he separated from his Bosnian-born wife Diana three years ago, his name was again in lights after he declared, unusually for someone in his position, she would have half his fortune when they divorced because she deserved it.

So just who is the 56-year-old who allegedly saved Barclays from collapse by persuading the Qatari royal family to invest billions, who has a yacht which he is reported to rent out to celebrities for £300,000 a week and who has the charm – as well as the resources – to date a supermodel?

Former wife Diana with David Furnish and Sir Elton John

Former wife Diana with David Furnish and Sir Elton John

And how did he go from being a “not very academic but great on the rugby pitch” hirsute pupil at Edinburgh Academy to a shaven-headed number cruncher who can dream up intricate tax schemes which can – legitimately – outfox HMRC and earn him millions, as well as the nickname “Roger the Dodger” in the process?

The second son of three, it seems Roger Allan Jenkins was always going to succeed, even if the extent of his financial rewards have been a surprise to those who knew him as a schoolboy.

Born in 1955 to Arthur and Vera Jenkins, he and his siblings – elder brother David and younger brother Trevor – attended Edinburgh Academy while their father worked as an oil refinery manager in Grangemouth. Arthur was, say those who remember him, a dominant man who was driven to ensure his boys would all be successful in life.

“The whole family were very focused people,” recalls Jake Young, PE teacher to the Jenkins boys when they were at school and a long-term friend of the family.

“Arthur was a very successful man, Vera was more an intellectual type, and they were determined the boys would achieve. Even though David and Roger were good at sport, they made sure that the first thing they did every day on getting home was their homework. I wouldn’t say the boys were academic, but they were made to work at it. They were very disciplined.”

He adds: “Roger was very focused in whatever he did, and so was David. I believe Trevor is also a multi-millionaire in his own right as well these days.

“Roger continued to play rugby at school while David concentrated on athletics, but he was always a determined character. I think he might still be the top try scorer at the school from the time he was in the first XV.”

Roger went on to Heriot-Watt University and a degree in economics while David followed in his father’s footsteps and studied chemical engineering.

The pair continued to run, training at Meadowbank, and Roger was selected to represent Scotland in the Commonwealth Games in 1974 and then the World Student Games the following year in Rome, where he won silver in the 400 metres. Despite that success, he turned down the chance to run for Great Britain in the 1976 Olympics.

Says Mr Young: “I remember when he was invited to be in the GB squad, he asked if he would actually be running and was told they weren’t sure, so he said he had better things to do. He was a young man then and I think he’d become more focused on his career.

“I also think he knew he wasn’t as good at it as David, whom he held in some awe. He knew he couldn’t emulate what his big brother did, so I think he put his energies elsewhere.”

By this time, David had already set a British record for the 400m, won a European title and took silver in the 4x400m relay at the 1972 Olympics, but he later admitted taking performance-enhancing drugs and, in 1988, was convicted for smuggling steroids into America.

Sentenced to seven years, he was released after ten months and now runs a hugely successful food and nutritional supplement business in California.

While his brother was in the papers, Roger was getting on with his career. He had a brief stint at BP before joining Barclays as a graduate trainee in 1978, living in the United States and working for the bank’s investment arm in New York before leaving the company to join Kleinwort Benson, the merchant bank.

In 1994, he returned to Barclays and began to develop his expertise in tax structuring, eventually heading Barclays Capital Structured Capital Markets (SCM), the division whose tax avoidance operations ended up at the heart of a High Court case in 2009.

The division was little known, even within Barclays, but SCM employed experts accomplished at tax arbitrage, a practice that allowed rich individuals and major companies to exploit the differences between tax rules in various counties, saving them billions.

Along with former lawyer Iain Abrahams, Jenkins made SCM a vital part of Barclays’ success, although one former colleague said that it was Abrahams who was “the brains behind the division”, while of Jenkins: “I wouldn’t say he is brilliantly bright, but he is very good at internal politics.”

Good enough to be paid a reputed £40m a year.

Yet while some employees complained of his “abrasive” management style, it seems there is a softer side to Jenkins. He was climbing the corporate ladder when he met his second wife, a beautiful Bosnian refugee, Sanela Dijana Catic, who later changed her name to Diana.

She had fled Sarajevo during the civil war, arriving in London with no English, no family and no money. She worked in a Covent Garden store earning £2 an hour, saving until she could enrol on a computer course at university.

While there she met Jenkins at the Barbican gym. He had divorced his first wife, fellow financier Catherine McDowell, and was living in a rented flat.

Diana has said: “Roger was incredibly kind. He was attracted to me and I was attracted to him. People have tried to portray me as a gold digger, but I fell in love with a man who was kind to me. Very, very kind.’

They married at Chelsea Register Office in 1999, the same year their son, Innis, was born. Daughter Eneya was born three years later.

While Diana was outgoing – she started making headlines for her charity fundraising parties and her friendships with Guy Ritchie and Cindy Crawford – Roger still preferred to keep in the background, but he has said in the past: “When we met, I had absolutely nothing. I’d walked away from everything. I had nothing in the bank. When I met Diana I had zero equity.

“People look at us and judge us. We never had that thing where I was worth ‘X’ million and she married me.”

However, the pair separated in 2009 and divorced last year. At the time, Jenkins said that Diana would receive half his money – a payout believed to be around £150m.

“And quite rightly so. I will happily give it to her. You have to have a degree of integrity and ethics in a situation like this,” he said.

“Diana and I had a wonderful marriage for ten years. We have two fantastic kids together. Without her, I would not have anything like the success I have had. We built our fortune together from scratch, so why shouldn’t she get half?”

Certainly, some believe it was her social skills that led the Qatari family to invest £4bn with Barclays during the credit crunch – a financial shot in the arm which kept it from a state handout.

Jenkins left Barclays two years ago while establishing his own advisory business based on his contacts in the Persian Gulf. Then, in February 2010, he launched an advisory firm in Dublin – Elkstone Capital – looking at opportunities created by the Irish financial crisis.

Now the Academical is a managing partner at Brazilian bank BTG Pactual and his share of the bank’s £10 billion flotation was worth £122m.

He spends his time between London, Sao Paulo and California – and, thanks to his ex-wife, is still in the kind of celebrity circles in which supermodels like Elle “The Body” Macpherson revolve.

It is believed he was last in Edinburgh to attend the funerals of his parents, who both died in the last few years.

Mr Young adds: “I have been surprised at Roger – not that he was so successful, but just how successful he’s been. I do wonder if all the money makes up for having a less successful private life.

“He’s also changed a lot physically. I saw him at his father’s funeral and didn’t recognise him because he had no hair. I asked his mother if he had alopecia but apparently he was shaving his head to keep in with his young, trendy wife. He used to have a thick head of hair.”

His lack of hair obviously hasn’t put off Macpherson. The pair have apparently been dating for some time and, according to a source who knows them, they “are actually very well suited and get along well. Roger is very charming, and very tall and athletic, which suits Elle. He’s also a big presence with a big ego”.

Plus, let’s not forget, as Mrs Merton would say, his big packet, too.