In the early 1980s, Nick Leeson landed a job as a clerk with royal
bank Coutts, followed by a string of jobs with other banks, ending
up with Barings, where he quickly made an impression and was promoted
to the trading floor.
Before long, he was appointed manager of a new operation in futures
markets on the Singapore Monetary Exchange (SIMEX) and was soon
making millions for Barings by betting on the future direction
of the Nikkei Index. His bosses back in London, who viewed with
glee his large profits, trusted the whizzkid. Leeson and his wife
Lisa seemed to have everything: a salary of £50,000 with
bonuses of up to £150,000, weekends in exotic places, a smart
apartment and frequent parties and to top it all they even seemed
to be very much in love.
Barings believed that it wasn't exposed to any losses because
Leeson claimed that he was executing purchase orders on behalf
of a client. What the company did not realise is that it was responsible
for error account 88888 where Leeson hid his losses. This account
had been set up to cover up a mistake made by an inexperienced
team member, which led to a loss of £20,000. Leeson now used
this account to cover his own mounting losses.
As the losses grew, Leeson requested extra funds to continue trading,
hoping to extricate himself from the mess by more deals. Over three
months he bought more than 20,000 futures contracts worth about
$180,000 each in a vain attempt to move the market. Some three
quarters of the $1.3 billion he lost Barrings resulted from these
trades. When Barings executives discovered what had happened, they
informed the Bank of England that Barings was effectively bust.
In his wake Nick Leeson had wiped out the 233 year old Baring investment
Bank, who proudly counted HM The Queen as a client. The $1.3 billion
dollars of liabilities he had run up was more than the entire capital
and reserves of the bank.
Eventually arrested in Frankfurt, Germany, Nick spent a few fraught
months trying to escape extradition to Singapore. He failed and
in December 1995 a court in Singapore sentenced him to six and
a half years in prison. Lisa his wife got a job as an airhostess
to be able to visit him regularly. At first, their marriage survived
the strain of being apart, but what Lisa could not abide were his
revelations of his infidelity with Geisha girls and she divorced
him. Within months, Leeson was diagnosed as suffering from cancer
of the colon. His weight plummeted and most of his hair fell out
released in 1999, and despite his return to the UK bringing
a realisation that the high life had been swept away — he
was effectively homeless and without a job — Nick
enjoyed a fairly hedonistic first year seeing friends and
family but also continuing his cancer treatment.
Nick Leeson has proved his resilience and has been able to capitalise
on his experiences. He was paid a substantial fee for the newspaper serialisation
of his book in The Mail. The story was then turned into a film, Rogue
Trader, starring Ewan McGregor. During 2001 he undertook a Psychology
degree and Nick now spends much of his time presenting talks to companies
on Risk Management and undertaking after-dinner
and conference speaking based on his life experiences.
With a psychology degree and a second marriage to Irish beautician Leona
Tormay, (with her own children Kersty and Alex) after trying
for a baby they were delighted when, in 2004, Leona gave birth to a baby
boy. Nick comments; “I'm of the mindset that cancer must not
take you over and control your life. I do believe that the more positive
you are, the greater your chance of survival." his advice to others
is never to bottle up stress as he himself did: "You need to talk
and express yourself as I now do to Leona. With cancer as with other
problems, it's amazing how adaptable human beings are, and you will be
able to cope provided you keep a strong frame of mind."
In April 2005 Nick was appointed Commercial Manager of Galway United Football
rising to the position of General Manager in late November 2005.
The same year Nick published his second book Back
from the Brink, Coping with Stress co-written with psychologist Ivan Tyrell.
July 2007 saw his appointed as CEO of the football club where he remained in
until his resignation in February 2011. Nick remains a
shareholder of Galway United and continues to represent the club with the Football
Association of Ireland.
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