Credit crunch banker leaps to his death
in front of express train
By CHRISTOPHER LEAKE, MAIL ON SUNDAY DEFENCE EDITOR/HOME
UPDATED: 17:06 EST, 27 September 2008
Tragedy: Kirk Stephenson took his own life despite a
successful 20-year City career, vibrant social life and
a loving family
The City was in shock last night after the apparent
suicide of a millionaire financier haunted by the
pressures of dealing with the credit crunch.
Kirk Stephenson, who was married with an eight-year-old
son, died in the path of a 100mph express train at
Taplow railway station, Berkshire.
Mr Stephenson is believed to have taken his own life
after succumbing to mounting personal pressures as the
world’s financial markets went into meltdown.
The death of the respected 47-year-old
City figure evokes memories of the 1929 Wall Street
crash in America and comes as:
• Bradford & Bingley teeters on the brink of
nationalisation after a dramatic share price slump.
• David Cameron faced embarrassment on the eve of the
Tory conference after members of a secretive club of
Conservative donors were linked to the ‘short-selling’
of Bradford & Bingley.
• Gordon Brown was wrongfooted by Shadow Chancellor
George Osborne, who announced plans to set up an
independent watchdog to police the Treasury and strip it
of key powers if the Conservatives win the next
New Zealand-born Mr Stephenson, who owned a £3.6million,
five-storey house in Chelsea and a retreat in the West
Country, was chief operating officer of Olivant
Last year, the private equity firm tried to buy a 15 per
cent stake worth almost £1billion in Northern Rock
before the bank was nationalised, bidding against Virgin
boss Sir Richard Branson.
In June, the company secured a 2.5 per cent stake in
Swiss banking giant
UBS . There has been persistent
speculation in the financial world that UBS has written
off billions after being exposed to the US mortgage
Since June, the bank has dropped in value by about 20
per cent, which means the value of Olivant’s stake in
UBS has fallen from £950million to £770million.
Before his death at 9am on Thursday, Mr Stephenson
appeared to have everything to live for.
A glittering 20-year City career had made him a hugely
wealthy man and he was said to have been happy in his
marriage to Karina Robinson, a successful financial
Sources stressed that neither Mr Stephenson nor his
company had financial problems that would have led him
to take his own life.
But they said the financier had ‘succumbed’ to the
stress and responsibilities of his taxing role, adding
that Mr Stephenson had overreacted to the continuing
Wife Karina and son Lucas, with whom Stephenson had
breakfast before killing himself
After eating breakfast on Thursday with his wife and
their young son Lucas, Mr Stephenson drove to Taplow
station, left his car in the car park and crossed a
footbridge over the main First Great Western Plymouth to
Out of view of passengers on the platform, he is then
said by witnesses to have leapt in front of a high-speed
The driver sounded his horn and slammed on the brakes
but was unable to stop in time. The train came to a
standstill a mile down the track.
Mr Stephenson left no note, but the incident is being
treated by police, train operator First Great Western
and his own firm as a suicide.
In due course a coroner will examine the death and
record an official verdict.
Mr Stephenson’s colleagues and family were unable to
explain why had he had gone to Taplow.
Last night, his devastated widow released a statement
saying: ‘Kirk was a life-enhancer – not with a showy,
life-and-soul-of-the-party sort of charisma, but as a
planner who quietly ensured everyone around him had a
‘A dedicated father and a devoted husband, he valued his
family above all else.
'He had a gift for friendship and was a generous and
exceptional host, gathering his wide circle in summer
villas all over Europe, as well as for parties, dinners
‘Any occasion with Kirk was a wonderful experience. He
spent many a fine – and less than fine – summer evening
listening to opera at Garsington, Glyndebourne and The
Grange with friends.
'He also loved board games and tennis, passions he
shared with his treasured son, Lucas.
‘He arrived in London in 1983 as an SG Warburg trainee.
After his stint in the City he went on to work at
several large organisations. Latterly, he was a director
‘Always a keen traveller, in 1999 he married his
cherished wife Karina. Together they travelled from
Bhutan to Burgundy, Buenos Aires to Tripoli.
‘He will be sorely missed by his wife, his son, his
mother Bet Stephenson, and his many friends.’
Until two months ago, former merchant banker Karina was
a columnist on The Banker magazine.
One of her former colleagues said: ‘It is shocking news.
I know Kirk had been under pressure, but I am not aware
that his own money was at stake.
'He was very hard-working. He did a 24-hour-a-day job.’
A family friend added: ‘Kirk was always troubled because
of his work. He was always so busy, working late and
travelling a lot.
'But he didn’t seem any different on Thursday. He ate
breakfast with the family, kissed them and said goodbye.
No one can believe what happened.’
Mr Stephenson’s previous jobs include chief operating
officer of City lawyers Freshfield Bruckhaus Deringer,
group finance director of Coats Viyella and Amersham
International and an investment banker at Warburg and
At Olivant Advisers he was paid £333,000 last year, but
is thought to have made millions more from the core
Olivant business, based in Guernsey.
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