Ex Barclays chief Bob Diamond returns

Tim Wallace
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Former Barclays chief executive plans his City comeback

BOB DIAMOND is launching a new investment vehicle in London to fund a venture into African banking, his first big move since leaving Barclays in last year’s Libor scandal.

City commentators welcomed the investment banker’s return, 18 months after he bore the brunt of the blame for traders’ attempted Libor fixing.

It is understood that he hopes to raise £150m on the London Stock Exchange before taking the funds to launch his operations in high growth markets on the continent.

Diamond is teaming up with Ashish Thakkar from Mara Group for the venture, naming the unit Atlas Mara. As the African market is currently poorly covered by banks, it is considered a key growth region for the sector.

Diamond was responsible for building Barclays’ investment banking arm – formerly called Barclays Capital – into a money-making powerhouse in a decade of rapid growth. During the financial crisis the unit kept the whole bank afloat, a success that led to his promotion to chief executive in 2011.

But just a year later he resigned, followed shortly by chairman Marcus Agius, a few days after the bank became the first to settle over the Libor scandal. The row triggered by the revelation of some traders’ bad behaviour engulfed the bank, and Diamond stepped down after a clash with Lord King, the former Bank of England governor. The US banker has kept a low profile since.

But leading City figures welcomed this new chance for Diamond to use his talents.

“The world loves a winner and that is what Bob Diamond has been for 25 years. There is no doubt that Mr Diamond incurred the wrath and indignation of Lord King, Lord Turner, Andrew Tyrie, the Treasury Select Committee and the public at large over Libor manipulation. Of those who know Mr Diamond, many feel he was a scapegoat,” said City grandee David Buik.

“Though Mr Diamond courts controversy, he remains a highly regarded figure in financial circles. Apart from Atlas Mara Diamond is rumoured to be considering investing in Aquis Exchange, a trading platform in competition with LSE and BATS. It is hard to keep a resilient operator down!”

A spokesman for Bob Diamond declined to comment.

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