John Cuckney, Baron Cuckney
|The Right Honourable
The Lord Cuckney
|Born||John Graham Cuckney
12 July 1925
|Died||30 October 2008(aged 83)|
|Spouse(s)||Muriel Scott Boyd (m. 1960–2004)
Jane Newell (m. 2007–08)
|Alma mater||University of St Andrews|
Early life and career
Born in India to Air Vice-Marshal E. J. Cuckney and his wife Lilian, Cuckney was educated at Shrewsbury School. He read medicine at the University of St Andrews, returning after service with the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers and the King's African Rifles during World War II to study history and economics. He was recruited by MI5, with whom he served until 1959. Cuckney's time in MI5 featured in Peter Wright's book Spycatcher, where Wright described him as "a tough, no-nonsense" officer.
Business and public service
After leaving MI5, he worked in the City at stockbroking firm Standard Industrial Group, before joining merchant bank Lazards, where he became the first director to resign in over 100 years. He then established Anglo-Eastern Bank with Sir David Alliance, specialising in trade finance between Britain and the Middle East.
Cuckney was appointed chairman of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board in 1970, which he restructured and restored to viability following the possibility of insolvency. He left in 1972 to become the first chief executive of the Property Services Agency, set up to manage the government's property estate. In 1974 he moved to the Crown Agents, which was in financial difficulty following the secondary banking crisis of 1973–1975. He joined as chairman and separated out the military sales arm as International Military Services (a Ministry of Defence company), which he also became chairman of and served until 1985. He left the Crown Agents in 1978, and briefly joined the Port of London Authority before being knighted.
He subsequently became director and/or chairman of various companies, including travel company Thomas Cook, Midland Bank, tea company Brooke Bond, engineering firm John Brown, helicopter manufacturer Westland, Royal Insurance, Investors in Industry (later 3i), pharmaceutical company Glaxo, and Orion Publishing Group.
Westland affair and Maxwell scandal
Cuckney had gained a reputation as a "the company doctor who never lost a patient" following his involvement with the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board, Crown Agents, and John Brown. His appointment in 1985 as chairman of Westland, when the company was facing bankruptcy, saw him become involved in the 1985–1986 Westland affair, a political scandal for Margaret Thatcher's Conservative Party government. Cuckney, with Thatcher, favoured a merger with the American company Sikorsky, while the Secretary of State for Defence Michael Heseltine favoured a European merger. The American option prevailed, and the affair lead to Heseltine's resignation.
In 1992 he was appointed as an advisor to Peter Lilley, Secretary of State for Social Security, following the death of Robert Maxwell and the discovery that he had stolen hundreds of millions of pounds from his companies' pension funds. He headed the Maxwell Pensioners' Trust and in 1995, brokered a £276 million out-of-court settlement, known as the Major Settlement, between the pension schemes and those institutions against which the schemes had potential legal claims.
- Beavis, Simon (3 November 2008). "Lord Cuckney; Obituary". The Guardian (Guardian News & Media). Retrieved 2008-12-07.
- "Lord Cuckney: trouble-shooting businessman". The Times (London: News Corporation). 3 November 2008. Retrieved 2009-06-07.
- "Lord Cuckney". Telegraph.co.uk (Telegraph Media Group). 31 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-01.
- The London Gazette: . 2 June 1978. Retrieved 2009-06-07.
- McKittrick, David (13 November 2008). "Lord Cuckney: Former MI5 officer who became a political and financial fixer for both Tory and Labour governments". The Independent (Independent News & Media). Retrieved 2009-06-07.
- "Sikorsky Plan For Westland". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). 20 December 1985. Retrieved 2009-06-07.
- The London Gazette: . 28 July 1995. Retrieved 2009-06-07.
- John Graham Cuckney, Baron Cuckney at thePeerage.com