Obituary: Jeremy Salvesen, entrepreneur and adventurer

Born: 26 February, 1963, in Kelso, Roxburghshire. Died: 10 April, 2014, in Annecy, France, aged 51

Jeremy Salvesen: Serial entrepreneur whose spirit of adventure led to him sailing around the world
Jeremy Salvesen: Serial entrepreneur whose spirit of adventure led to him sailing around the world

JEREMY Salvesen, who died in a tragic skiing accident in France, crammed more into his too-short life than most of us could dream of, including racing a 40-foot yacht around the world. Born and brought up in the Borders, he was the great-great-grandson of Christian Salvesen, a 19th-century Norwegian immigrant who went on to develop the Salvesen shipping, whaling and road transport conglomerate and also brought the first penguins to Edinburgh Zoo.

But Jeremy Salvesen was not one to rest on his family’s laurels. He went through life as a free spirit, creating numerous business enterprises and pushing life’s boundaries as a sportsman. And always with a beaming smile that, as one friend recalled, “started in his eyes like a sunrise, sparkled through his teeth, lit up his face and then lit up every room he was ever in or any boat he was on”.

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Despite his family history of shipping, Salvesen was in his early 40s when, in 2005, he decided to learn, from scratch, how to sail. Given his adventurous nature, he didn’t have just the Firth of Forth in mind: round-the-world sounded a bit more like it. Having learnt to sail in a Laser 2000 at Port Edgar on the Firth, he bought a 40-foot ocean-going yacht called Mowgli, named after the Kipling/Disney Jungle Book character and adorned with Jungle Book stickers. To sailing buffs, the Mowgli was an Akilaria RC1 Class 40.

Salvesen signed up for the 2008/9 inaugural round-the-world Portimão Global Ocean Race along with co-crewperson Victoria Sanders-Perrin, for the double-handed class. When she was forced to pull out at the last minute for family reasons, Salvesen’s friend and onshore boat manager David Thomson of Gosport, Hampshire, took her place.

After sailing from Portimão, Portugal, the two-man Team Mowgli sailed round Cape Horn, past New Zealand, Brazil and the US before ending back in Europe eight months later, finishing third in the double-handed class.

The two men experienced horrendous conditions, including a hurricane on Christmas Eve, 2008, in which they believed they would die.

After they made it back safely to Portimão, Salvesen vowed never to sail competitively again, because “I don’t want ever to put my family through such anguish again.” He sold Mowgli to top Italian racing yachtsman Marco Nannini, who renamed it, aptly for the time, Financial Crisis, and took it on to further racing successes.

Jeremy John Russell Salvesen was born on 26 February, 1963, in Kelso, Roxburghshire.

His father John was a Kelso farmer, great-grandson of the famously successful Norwegian immigrant Christian Salvesen, and his mother Alison (née Russell) helped run the farm. Young Jeremy first attended Cargilfield School in Barnton, Edinburgh, the first independent preparatory school in Scotland.

From there he moved south to attend Haileybury College, an independent boarding school in Hertford Heath, Hertfordshire, from 1976-81.

The following year he enrolled in what was then the Royal Agricultural College in Cirencester, Gloucestershire –now with university status and known as the RAU. Having studied rural land management, he graduated in 1985, planning to go into land and estate management rather than following in his father’s farming footsteps.

After qualifying from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), he began work with Savills estate agents in Brechin. Later in his life of adventure and being a serial entrepreneur, he would describe himself, with that beaming smile, as “an unsuccessful chartered surveyor”.

After Savills, he set up and was a director of Tantallon International Ltd, an investment company based at Rothesay Terrace, Edinburgh, which led to the acquisition of the struggling Duncan’s of Scotland chocolate company, of which he became managing director, and ultimately a director of the spin-off Groovy Chocolate Ltd, an online sales company specialising in personalised gift chocolates.

He was a founding investor in the London-based Edinburgh Financial Publishing Group Ltd. and also invested in Hamilton & Inches jewellers, Bruichladdich malt whisky distillery on Islay (now owned by Rémy Cointreau) and latterly the Selkirk-based company Spark Energy and a major commercial and leisure property development in Brazil.

He was a former director of Crimson Land Equities Ltd, Eyemouth Freezers Ltd of Berwickshire and Ambition Racing Ltd, set up to back his sail-racing career. In all his investment activities and as company director, he became known and respected for the support he gave to management teams.

Alongside his numerous entrepreneurial activities, Salvesen was heavily involved in charities, mentoring many young business people in Scotland through the Prince’s Trust and supporting Stanmore House School in Lanarkshire, which his daughter Tessa attends. His family said he had a passion for shooting and stalking and loved the Scottish countryside.

He lived, in turn, in Edzell, Angus, just north of Brechin, on Heriot Row in Edinburgh, at Cardrona on the banks of the Tweed near Innerleithen, at Woodend Farm, Dunsyre, Lanarkshire and latterly, from 2004, at Sauchur House in Elie, in the East Neuk of Fife.

He also kept a getaway home, the six-bedroom Chalet Le Bercail in the French Alpine ski resort of La Clusaz, close to the Swiss border, which he rented out as a holiday home but also made available free for charity events.

When he bought the chalet in 2010, it was rather run-down but he eventually converted it into a luxury home to welcome friends and family, as well as occasionally renting out to large parties of British or other skiers.

He was an expert skier, and it was during a family outing from the chalet that he hit his head on a rock and was flown to hospital in nearby Annecy, where he was pronounced dead from “catastrophic” head injuries. Ironically, because he was with a group of ten family and friends, the accident happened on a blue (relatively easy) slope.

His son Raleigh witnessed the accident during what was planned to have been their last run of the holiday.

Unlike Formula One driver Michael Schumacher, Salvesen was not wearing a helmet when he reportedly missed the edge of the piste and fell 17 feet onto a rock.

“What he was wearing was his trademark huge grin as he went down the slope at some speed,” according to his brother-in-law Graham Bucknall, who runs the Bridge Inn in Ratho with Salvesen’s sister Rachel.

“He was a passionate chef who experimented on his family with various molecular techniques – with varying results!” Graham and Rachel told The Scotsman. “He loved wine, his new wine cellar and his dog Mowgli, named after his round-the-world yacht.

“He was loud and he loved travel and adventure holidays. He had an insatiable appetite to learn about the world he lived in. We all take comfort from knowing that he was doing something he loved with a big smile on his face. As always, he was pushing himself to the limit. His life has been a wonderful adventure.”

Jeremy Salvesen is survived by his partner Jacqueline, his sons Oliver, Raleigh and Toby, his daughter Tessa, his mother Alison, his brothers Michael and Nigel and his sisters Penny and Rachel.

All of his four children were from his marriage to Louise (née Rowe) which ended in 1997.