Diana Jenkins: the refugee who modelled her life on Dynasty

Diana Jenkins, wife of former Barclays star banker Roger Jenkins, has upped sticks and moved to Malibu in protest, she tells Tatler, at being snubbed in Britain as an “eastern European mail-order bride”.

Her husband will visit her and his children for just six months of the year. How will he fare without his consigliere and counsellor? And, given the pivotal role she claims to have played in the bank’s rescue last year, how will Barclays?

The transformation of Diana Jenkins from “penniless refugee” (subsisting entirely on Toblerone bars at one point) to the wife of the City’s richest banker, “with George Clooney, Sir Elton John and Cindy Crawford on speed-dial, is the stuff of fairy tales”, gushes The Daily Telegraph. One thing’s clear: she’s no shrinking violet.

The self-styled champion of “Brand Jenkins” pushed her husband to become Barclays’ highest earner and, arguably, the most powerful man in the bank (see below). Roger Jenkins is widely credited with negotiating the £6bn deal with Qatar that saved Barclays’ bacon last autumn. But it was smooth-talking Diana who paved the way by introducing him to the head of Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim. She’d met the sheikh’s wife on holiday in Sardinia.

Jenkins, 36, has certainly overcome considerable hardship, says The Sunday Times. Born as Sanela Dijana Catic into a Bosnian Muslim family, she grew up in a small flat in Sarajevo and was inspired as a child by TV series Dynasty: “My blueprint for life.” When war broke out in 1992, she fled, walking from Sarajevo to Croatia. Quite how she got to Britain, without passport or money, remains a mystery.

Once in London, however, she scraped a living doing menial jobs and eventually running a jewellery stall. The turning point, she told Tatler, came in 1995 when she discovered her younger brother had been killed in the war. “I reinvented myself for survival.

That year Sanela died and I became Diana.” She soon set about a business computing degree at City University, where she wrote a dissertation on how “network planning and data search techniques can be applied to the area of multinational tax planning”.  No wonder Roger Jenkins was impressed when he met her in a London gym in 1999.

Having a mega-rich banker husband has certainly “facilitated” Jenkins’ jet-set lifestyle, says The Observer. But never underestimate her powers of persuasion – or her entrepreneurial drive. Having co-launched a bikini business and a film distribution business (with Will Smith), her latest venture is a line of “intelligent” soft drinks, including one called Neuro Gasm – “a sort of Red Bull for the organic crowd”.

The reaction to Jenkins’ denunciation of snobby Britain was “heated”, says The Sunday Times. But, in all the brouhaha, commentators glossed over “the incredible trajectory” of her life. Given the waves she is making in business, charity and even international diplomacy (she recently flew Sean Penn to Cuba in her private jet for an interview with Fidel Castro), Jenkins is a highly influential player in her own right. As for staying married to Roger: “Who knows what the future might bring.” Who indeed?

But Dynasty turns out to be ‘unfulfilled, empty, dirty’

Diana Jenkins so hates being labelled a “socialite”, says Neil Tweedie in The Daily Telegraph, that she consulted lawyers when one newspaper used the term. Still, it rather grates to hear her describe her glitzy life in London as “unfulfilled, empty, almost dirty”. 

After all, thanks to Roger Jenkins’ speciality at Barclays – “tax avoidance, on an epic scale” – she enjoys vast wealth at the expense of Her Majesty’s Exchequer. “Think of all the money her husband ensured that Britain’s hospitals and schools would never see, while taking a healthy cut for his bank, himself and his wife. Surely, she can be a bit grateful for that?”  

Jenkins was certainly a key player before he left Barclays this summer to set up an advisory boutique, says The Guardian. Indeed, in March a source at the bank claimed that even Barclays chief John Varley “now attends meetings in Jenkins’ office”. 

His area of expertise was tax arbitrage – including a practice known as “double-dipping”, which helped the bank’s clients exploit differences between international tax rules. He was so good at it that his annual earnings were thought to be around £40m. 

“Roger the Dodger” was equally renowned for “his sometimes muscular style of management”, notes Tweedie. Summary dismissal hung over those failing to make the grade. During one away-day, an employee was strapped to a pretend electric chair. “Hilarious.”

We can thank Diana Jenkins for revealing a softer side – he took her parents into the marital home. And, as soon as he could, “my lovely husband bought me a diamond ring”, she told Tatler. “It hurt him to see how snobbily I was treated.”

One Response

  1. 17/03/2012, lara wrote

    You forgot to mention her running a prostitution ring. Since when is becoming a Hollywood Madam a fairy-tale story?

    http://jezebel.com/5892565/is-robert-downey-jr-spreading-insider-celeb-gossip-on-blogs

Commenting on this article closed

MoneyWeek magazine

Latest issue:

Magazine cover
Cheaper oil

Who benefits?

The UK's best-selling financial magazine. Take a FREE trial today.
Claim 4 FREE Issues

Vote in the MoneyWeek Readers' Choice Awards

Vote for your favourite financial services companies in the inaugural MoneyWeek Awards, and you could win a year's subscription to MoneyWeek magazine. Find out more and vote here.


Which investment platform?

When it comes to buying shares and funds, there are several investment platforms and brokers to choose from. They all offer various fee structures to suit individual investing habits.
Find out which one is best for you.