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Disgraced Sir Fred Goodwin Took RBS To 'Top Of Premier League'

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Sir Fred Goodwin at a House of Commons committee session in 2003
Sir Fred Goodwin at a House of Commons committee session in 2003

Fred Goodwin's life in the banking premier league was shattered as the taxpayer rescue of his wounded bank turned him into a target for public anger.

Fred "the Shred", whose nickname derives from his zealous cost cutting, earned more than £4 million in 2007 in his position as the chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland.

He was credited with building RBS into an empire, with operations in 54 countries and sponsorship deals with some of the biggest names in sport, including the Williams Formula One racing team, Six Nations Rugby, racing legend Jackie Stewart and tennis star Andy Murray.

He boasted of catapulting the bank "to the top of the premier league" with the £49 billion deal to capture Dutch rival ABN Amro in 2007.

But Mr Goodwin was also at the helm as RBS crumbled, the ABN acquisition proving disastrous for the bank as markets turned sour in the grip of the credit crunch, exposing a weak balance sheet and bringing the firm to the brink of the abyss.

RBS is now 80% owned by the taxpayer and is being propped up with billions of pounds of public money.

Mr Goodwin's "assertive and robust" management style was flagged as a potential risk to RBS as early as 2003 in the Financial Services Authority's report into the bank's collapse.

The regulator raised concerns about chief executive dominance during its meetings with the bank's chairman over the following three years but was assured that the rest of the board provided an adequate challenge to Mr Goodwin.

The report also highlighted the strained relationship between the FSA and Mr Goodwin prior to 2005, in particular RBS's reluctance to allow its non-executive directors to meet the FSA on an individual one-to-one basis.

After he left RBS in November 2008, Mr Goodwin's pension deal sparked public outrage, leaving him with a £703,000-a-year package at the age of 50 - including a £2.7m lump sum - despite leading the bank to the brink of disaster.

The Paisley-born former banker saw his house attacked and an artist's effigy of his head on a spike displayed in London as he became a magnet for public fury over fat cat pay amid a financial crisis that helped ferment recession.

He bowed to public pressure and offered to hand back more than £210,000 a year of his controversial pension payout. He volunteered to reduce his pension payout from £555,000 to £342,500 a year.

Mr Goodwin - who was knighted in 2004 for services to banking - made a habit of daring acquisitions throughout his career and was initially lauded for his success.

As a partner in accountancy firm Touche Ross - aged just 32 - he played a lead role in the liquidation of the scandal-hit Bank of Credit and Commerce International.

After joining RBS in 1998, he propelled the group into the ranks of the world's elite.

First he masterminded a £21 billion takeover of NatWest in March 2000 - the biggest deal in UK banking history.

He followed this up in 2004 with the $10.5 billion (£5.3 billion) acquisition of US bank Charter One, which doubled the size of RBS's US business Citizens, elevating a local retail bank to one of the 10 largest commercial banks in the US.

Other buys included insurers Direct Line and Churchill, but his takeover tendencies were not universally popular.

He also came under pressure from his own shareholders worried by the number of acquisitions made by the bank.

Mr Goodwin went to grammar school in Paisley before studying law at Glasgow University, becoming a chartered accountant in 1983, rising to partner at Touche Ross five years later.

His subsequent banking career took him to top positions at the Clydesdale Bank and Yorkshire Bank after which he joined the board of RBS.

 
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