Losing his Barings

KEITH BRADFORD -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:14 AM ET

He spent four years in a Singapore jail for committing the world's biggest banking fraud.

But the man who brought down Britain's oldest bank by covering up trading losses of about $1.9 billion Cdn is back in business.

And Nick Leeson spent his first day on the job as Galway United's new commercial director yesterday doing nothing but media interviews. "A lot of the Doomsdayers will be looking for me to fail but that's not what I'm about," the 38-year-old said from Galway, Ireland.

"I will be remembered for the biggest failure in my life and that's going to stay with me. But I want to prove to myself that I can succeed again."

Leeson, whose autobiography Rogue Trader spawned a big-budget movie starring Ewan McGregor, hasn't had a full-time job since being released from jail in 1999.

But the Manchester City fan has been making big bucks on the after-dinner speaking circuit.

His new job, which will involve attracting sponsorship for the second-tier Irish team, is a salaried position. However, the pay is such that he'll continue to top up his income with after-dinner speaking.

"Let's not talk about my salary," he laughed. "The money isn't the motivator, but it never was at Barings, to be honest."

NEW CHALLENGE

While Leeson spent yesterday telling the media he was excited about taking on a new challenge, Galway chairman John Fallon got busy trying to convince everyone that he hadn't lost his Barings, so to speak.

"The job was advertised in both the local and national press and Nick Leeson responded," said Fallon. "Basically, as a board we went and discussed it. We've gone into it with our eyes wide open."

Fallon said Leeson's resume before the collapse of Barings, plus the fact that he set up home locally several years ago, made him a strong candidate for the job.

And while Fallon admits Leeson's name will always be associated with the Barings scandal, he's hoping the added publicity will raise the team's profile in a positive way.

"There's a general consensus that what happened happened 10 years ago," he said.

GOOD LUCK TO HIM

"The response we've had - there's an element of well, good luck to him. On a personal front, I hope it works out for him."

Fallon said Leeson's work for Galway won't be subject to the same risks - and lack of accountability - that led to his downfall.

"We have structures in place right throughout our club. They are heavily leaning towards accountability and reporting procedures."

For his part, Leeson says he's put the Barings scandal behind him - but his experiences mean he's not looking beyond the shortterm.

"I had (four) years in prison to deal with what happened. There was a lot of soul searching," said Leeson, who recently won his fight with colon cancer.

"Since I was released from prison I've had a very short-term view of what I'm going to do. But regaining employment was always my aim. I still have the drive to succeed."

Leeson insists he's not using the Galway job as a stepping stone to a new and lucrative career.

The club is in relatively good shape financially, so even if his beloved Manchester City - a Premiership giant that's had its fair share of money trouble - comes knocking, he'll politely decline any offers.

"They are in way too much debt already," he laughed. "It wouldn't be a good career move, I don't think."


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