11 JANUARY 1992, Page 21

The Grobfather of Lloyd's

LUNCH with the Grobfather was quite something. He made a grand entrance, sup- ported by his butler, with a salver bearing a bottle of Dom Perignon and some cold sil- ver pots. He then settled down to tell me how inadequately Lloyd's of London was managed — by a succession of underwriters who (he said) had never run anything big- ger than their cosy family agencies. This was Kenneth Grob, the last of the big bad broker barons of Lloyd's, who has died in exile from the market which expelled him. He sold his barony to the Americans, and they noticed that he had left them ,£55 mil- lion short. In the end, the police noticed too. They brought him to trial seven years after the event, to spend months in court, facing a scatter-gun prosecution with a high proportion of misfires. The technique has become familiar, and its failure was deserved. About Lloyd's, I have long thought he was right — in saying that it needed to be run like a business. If the penny has been slow to drop, that was part- ly Grob's fault. Lloyd's had first to concen- trate on regulation, so as to stop its profes- sionals spiriting the members' money away to Panama and the South of France. His lunch-time routine told its own story. I got a small warm dry sherry. The Dom Perignon was for him (an overrated cham- pagne, I always think).