At the height of the global financial crisis of 2007-2009, an exotic new individual appeared on the scene, says The Sunday Times. Amanda Staveley, then 35, had already made waves in 2008 by brokering Sheikh Mansour of Abu Dhabi's takeover of Manchester City. However, the deal that would "mark her ascendancy into the premier league of dealmaking" came when Staveley and her advisory boutique, PCP Capital Partners, were instrumental in securing much of the £7.3bn in emergency cash from the Gulf that helped keep Barclays from falling under the control of the UK government (see below). The deal cemented her reputation as "the go-to woman to broker deals between wealthy Gulf investors and the West".
At the time, Staveley a former waitress and model who claimed to have turned down a marriage invitation from Prince Andrew was believed to have made £40m from the deal, says the Daily Mail. It looked as though she was "laughing all the way to the bank". But seven years on, she's back, suing Barclays for £1bn that she claims she's owed for arranging the Abu Dhabi side of the deal (including interest). Barclays insists the claim is "misconceived and without merit" and says it will fight it "vigorously".But Staveley is likely to prove tenacious.
Born to wealthy parents in Ripon, Yorkshire, her father, Robert, inherited an estate gifted to an ancestor by Cardinal Wolsey, which he later turned into a theme park. Her mother, Lynne, was a champion show jumper. As a child, Staveley was a fiercely competitive equestrienne and sprinter. She won a place at Cambridge to read languages, but dropped out due to stress, says ThisIsMoney.com.
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It was "an unhappy period", but it set the course for the rest of her life. She borrowed £180,000 to open a restaurant near Newmarket, which became a draw for the racing fraternity, especially staff from the Godolphin stable belonging to Dubai's rulers, the Maktoums. Her contacts with them were to stand her in good stead.
Staveley concedes that she was "cocky" in her 20s and that led to an early business setback. She started a company called Q.ton a restaurant, gym and conference complex outside Cambridge. But an ill-advised alliance with an IT services outfit, Euro Telecom, at the height of the dotboom turned sour. When the latter crashed losing £15m, Staveley only narrowly escaped bankruptcy.
But there were consolations: notably a romance with Prince Andrew, whom she'd met in a VIP line-up in 2001. He was allegedly "besotted" with her, but she broke it off, later quipping that her mother "took three years to get over it".
In 2005, Staveley headed for Dubai to set up PCP. She is "known and trusted in the Gulf like almost no other non-Arab", one associate told The Observer. "It's not about the money. I just want to go to bed at night and say I've done a good job," she said after the Barclays deal. Clearly, she has now changed her mind.
Barclay's bail-out controversy rumbles on
Tapping the Gulf's sheikhs for an emergency £7.3bn got Barclays out of a tight spot in 2008, says the FT. But the fundraisings have "come back to haunt the bank". The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is probing the Qatar side of the deal; and now Amanda Staveley is stirring up problems on the Abu Dhabi front. The Gulf bailout was always a "controversial" route for Barclays to take, says Harry Wilson in The Times. At the time, the bank's other shareholders complained that new investors were offered better terms than those available to them.
The popular line in the press, meanwhile, was that the bankhad looked abroad for the loan to avoid a UK government bailout "so executives could continue to pay bonuses".There's an argument to be made that the then-CEO, John Varley, made the right call in keeping the UK government off the share register, noted Iain Dey in The Sunday Times in 2011. Barclays was able to resist pressure to give up on investmentbanking and went on to buy Lehman Brothers, "transforming itself into one of the biggest forces on Wall Street".
But the bank is paying for its bold cash-call. The SFO is investigating whether the fees Barclays paid to Qatar were "legitimate consulting payments or an inducement" linked to the Gulf state's decision to plough £4.6bn into the bank. Varley and his successor, Bob Diamond, have both been questioned as has Barclays' main rainmaker in the Middle East at the time, Roger Jenkins.
Staveley has no connection with the SFO investigation, although it is believed that the revelation of details of the Qatar deal prompted her own suit. Besides, there's a poetic justice to her suing Barclays. As Prufrock noted in The Sunday Times in 2004, the boot was once on the other foot. When Staveley's first business, Q.ton, failed, Barclays sued her for £1,003,247.93 over a personally guaranteed loan. It's unclear whether they reached a settlement but memories like that die hard.
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