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Charles Gordon

Investor

Investor

Born: May 19, 1927; Died: August 7, 2014.

The entrepreneur Charles Gordon, who has died in Monaco aged 87, was one of the most fearless venture ­capitalists in the City of London, who had the foresight to invest at an early stage in the development of National Car Parks, Brighton Marina, Carmen Curlers and the Wimpy hamburger chain.

He married Nadia Nerina, a ­principal with the Royal Ballet, with whom he is pictured. In their heyday the couple lived a grand social life with fine houses in South Kensington and Monaco.

Through his wife's connections in the world of ballet, Mr Gordon advised dancer Rudolf Nureyev on his considerable financial affairs.

Just after Nureyev had "leapt to freedom" in the West in 1961, he told Mr Gordon he was penniless and needed money. The flamboyant banker recalled: "Nureyev said to me in his halting English, 'Charlik, can you help me? I am poor man; no money. I want to make money. Tax free'. "

Mr Gordon created the financial system that made Nureyev rich. He set up, perfectly legally, an offshore company in Luxembourg to accommodate all of Nureyev's earnings - without any tax deductions.

Charles Gordon was the son of a Jewish engineer whose family emigrated first to South Africa and later to London. He attended Perse School, Cambridge and read English and Law at Christ's College, Cambridge. He initially worked for his father but had met Nerina while a student, and when they announced their engagement his father cut him off as she was not Jewish.

Mr Gordon worked for the property division of the Investors Chronicle, where he met the property magnate Jack Cotton, for whom he became a financial consultant. His firm, City Centre Properties, was spearheading the redevelopment of bomb-damaged London and making a fortune. Mr Gordon also prospered.

In 1970 Mr Gordon established his own merchant bank, Spey Holdings, with blue-chip City backing. It was, arguably, his most innovative project as through Spey he brought together cash-rich organisations (often pension funds) and small expanding companies. However, many of his property investments proved unwise and Mr Gordon was ousted as chief executive and the business was sold.

He transferred his energies to Cedar Holdings - an early form of a venture capital company that joined a growing number of "fringe banks" in the City. He had backing of the Glasgow family of Morrison who had been successful drapers in the city. The father, Jack Morrison, was chairman of Cedar and his son Michael was a director.

Cedar principally operated in the second mortgage market and was caught up in the financial turmoil of 1973. The Bank of England launched its rescue "lifeboat scheme" to bail out the many secondary banks in trouble. After it was refinanced, Mr Gordon left Cedar and the bank was sold to Lloyds and Scottish.

Mr Gordon wrote his account of the dramatic events some years later in The Cedar Story: The Night The City Was Saved.

He then became a senior executive at the City merchant bank of Hambros, where he set up many large property deals - notably the hugely successful development of Bishopsgate in the City - and managed many wealthy accounts such as Nureyev's.

His father had come to accept Nerina and much enjoyed the fame she achieved on stage. She memorably created Lise in Frederick Ashton's La Fille Mal Gardee - a role she often danced in Glasgow when the company toured outside London. The Gordons also came north when she danced at several Edinburgh Festivals in the 1950s.

Mr Gordon's wife retired from the Royal Ballet in 1969 and after the turbulent demise of Cedar Holdings he operated in the property market on his own. That did not work out and he was declared bankrupt in 1973.

They lived in a much smaller ­apartment in Monaco and in 1984 Mr Gordon wrote his account of the two major post-war property developers (Cotton and Charles Clore) in The Two Tycoons. The book captured at first hand the thrills, and challenges, of working with two such powerful buccaneers.

In 1998 he brought off one final financial coup that made him a fortune. With the Kuwait Investment Office and the German bank Depfa, Mr Gordon formed a consortium that developed a 13-acre site by the Tower of London.

However, he injudiciously invested the proceeds in a solar energy project to supply energy panels on the roofs of airport car parks and along motorways.

Nerina died in 2008. The couple had no children.

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