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Teddy Butler-Henderson

It is a pleasure and an honour to have a few minutes to talk about Teddy Butler-Henderson, who was my good friend for over 40 years and without whose good offices the company which Richard Thornton and I founded would never have got off the ground.

When Teddy died five years ago, he left behind him a small investment advisory service called Naydale and a huge number of friends and correspondents in many countries for whim his often contrarian thoughts were part of their daily lives. He left a gap --- so much so that many of his clients telephoned me as one of his remaining directors to ask me to try to perpetuate as much as possible of his service, and I was fortunate that Peter Warburton, whom Teddy greatly admired, was willing to take it on.

I am sure that Peter would be the first to agree that no-one could replace Teddy’s unique qualities, both as a one man network and as a passionate advocate. I am equally sure that Teddy would be hugely cheered that the work of his old age has inspired such an impressive successor company.

Talking about Teddy has presented me with one problem, in that, although I knew him for so long, he was always so fascinated about what was going to happen next that there was little room to talk about times gone by. There were a few things, however, that were of particular relevance to his life.

He was descended from the 19th century railway tycoon, Sir Alexander Henderson, the 1st Lord Faringdon, who was responsible for the financing and building of a number of South American railroads. Teddy himself was trained as an engineer, no bad background for an investor. Incidentally there is a locomotive in the York Railway Museum called the Butler-Henderson, named, I suspect, after his father.

I know little about his was service except that he was in the Burma campaign, one of the nastiest of the war. Courage and endurance were at a premium and these were qualities which he brought to his home life as well. His lovely wife, Betty, was afflicted, quite early in her life, with a wasting disease which attacked her muscles. Teddy nursed her through to the end with total devotion.

When I first went to the Foreign and Colonial in the mid-fifties, Freddie Grant and Teddy Butler-Henderson at Henderson Administration already had an outstanding reputation in the investment world and the trusts they ran compiles enviable records and had excellent reputation.

One anecdote Teddy told against himself concerned a trust board meeting soon after his arrival. The Chairman was Charles Micklem, the formidable Senior Partner of Cazenove’s. His eyes lit on a new purchase, “Who bought this?” “I did”, said Teddy. “Does this company have borrowings?” “Yes”, said Teddy. “Young man, do you now know that companies with debt go bankrupt? Please go out and sell it at once.” Exit Teddy.

It was in the late sixties that I really got to know Teddy well, particularly at the time of the launch of GT Management. A handful of people made that possible, of whom teddy was one, and I believe that it was he who made the key decision which ensured the success of our Berry Trust’s rights issue. It was the sort of gift you can never repay. I am sure that there were countless times in Teddy’s life when he lent real support to friends when it was most needed. It is never forgotten.

In the early seventies, serious management problems inside Henderson Administration brewed up, resulting in a falling out between Teddy and Freddy Grant, which led to Teddy’s resignation. It was our good fortune at GT to be able to honour some of our debt to Teddy by offering him house room and desk space, and there he stayed, to our pleasure and benefit, until Betty’s health became so bad that he decided he must work from home.

It was at this point that the Naydale twice-weekly letters really took off. Splendidly idiosyncratic and full of provocative comments on an amazing variety of topics, and with copies of all sorts of economics and financial papers attached, it would land through the door with a heartening thump. How Teddy managed his cottage industry from his not over-large flat in Halkin Street defies belief, but what he created was a one-man clearing house of information unlikely to be gleaned from more orthodox sources – and the more valuable for that.

You couldn’t work with Teddy without constantly having preconceived ideas challenged and his circle of friends include many who were equally challenging – Michael White and Kurt Rickebacher spring immediately to mind.

So there we have him – a generous and courageous friend, a man with an immensely fertile and invigorating mind, and an inspiration to those who knew him – young in spirit to the end.