Lord Hambro

Baron Hambro of Dixton and Dumbleton (Charles Eric Alexander Hambro), former chairman of Hambros

Born: 24 July, 1930 Died: 7 November, 2002, aged 72

LORD Hambro took up the reins of the family business, Hambros, a major London-based merchant banking concern, but he ultimately saw it broken up in the new world of global investment banks.

The Hambro banking dynasty is descended from Calmer Levy, a young Jewish merchant from Hamburg, who moved to Copenhagen in 1778 to marry a cousin and take over her father’s trading business. Following Danish custom, Calmer adopted the name of his native town, but it was misspelt on his tradesman’s licence as Hambro.

Calmer’s grandson, Carl Joachim, established a banking business in London in 1839, which flourished, particularly in financing trade with Scandinavia. Charles Hambro, Carl Joachim’s great-great-grandson, in 1952 became the sixth generation of Hambros to join the family bank. He was appointed managing director in 1957, deputy chairman in 1965, and chairman in 1972. Ever loyal to the family roots in Denmark, for many years he ensured that Hambros handled the lion’s share of the City of London’s Scandinavian business.

A modest man with a strong sense of humour, he was admired for his judgment and his low-key approach. With his dashing cousin, Jocelyn, he brought a new dynamism to the old family firm; under their influence the bank became an early leader in the new Eurodollar deposit market and a player in the emergent Eurobond issuing business. Hambro also steered the bank through the property crash of 1974.

But the "Big Bang" in 1985 signalled the end of many of the stand-alone merchant banks which used to dominate London’s City business district - today, Rothschilds is the only survivor.

Hambro tried to shift his company’s emphasis toward corporate finance, but in the mid-Eighties Jocelyn and his three sons left the business to pursue their own interests.

When Hambros’s historic Bishopsgate headquarters was sold to a Japanese developer in the late Eighties, Lord Hambro observed of his City generation: "Sometimes I wonder whether we have been so clever after all."

In the Nineties, like many of its peers, Hambros found itself under increasing pressure, with only a modest market capitalisation in a world of major players. It was finally broken up in 1998, with its constituent parts sold to foreign owners and the banking business going to the French Socit Gnrale.

A man of many interests, Lord Hambro served as senior honorary treasurer of the Conservative Party from 1993 to 1997, introducing more professionalism into party fund-raising and reducing the Tories’ 19 million overdraft.

He also maintained a number of directorships, including the ferry company P&O, and was chairman for 15 years of Guardian Royal Exchange Assurance.

Educated at Eton, Lord Hambro served in the Coldstream Guards before starting his banking career. He was created a life peer in 1994. He is survived by his wife, Cherry, and two sons and a daughter from his first marriage, which was dissolved in 1976.