Bernie Myers – Reflections on 47 years

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“I had the experience of working for and alongside some exceptional colleagues during my time at Rothschild & Co. The firm has a unique culture, centred on the involvement of the Rothschild family both as shareholders and full-time employees, and I have derived great pleasure and enjoyment from being a part of that.” 

These are the thoughts of Bernie Myers, who worked as a Senior Advisor in Merchant Banking prior to his retirement in April of this year. Over the course of his 47 years at the firm, Bernie worked across a variety of roles and in many teams. We spoke to him as he reflected on the years that made up his “stimulating, enjoyable, and memorable” career.

Joining the firm

“One of the delights of my career was the wide variety of activities that I undertook, but the downside is that it’s not easy to summarise,” notes Bernie. His journey at Rothschild & Co began in 1972. Having initially applied to the Corporate Finance division, he was offered a dual position that combined roles in both Corporate Finance and what was then the Leasing Department.

Shortly thereafter, and following Rothschild & Co’s acquisition of the company, Bernie was appointed as Director and Head of Operations at Gresham Life Assurance Society – as the transaction saw him heavily involved. But it wasn’t long before he found himself back at New Court.

“I returned to Rothschild & Co in 1975 to negotiate the sale of Rothschild Intercontinental Bank (RIB), which was owned by eleven banks and institutions, with Rothschild & Co owning a minority,” Bernie explains. “RIB had suffered badly from the financial crisis in 1973 and achieving a sale was difficult, but we did complete a transaction with Amex Bank. Almost immediately thereafter, I was drafted, as part of a Rothschild & Co team, by the Bank of England to assist Sir James Goldsmith and Hambros in rescuing the banking activities of Slater Walker and sell or wind down the wider activities.”

From then on, says Bernie, “Limited time was left for a conventional advisory role.” In 1976, he became Finance Director of Rothschild & Co. This involved working closely with Victor, 3rd Lord Rothschild – Chairman of N M Rothschild & Sons Limited at the time – and later, Sir Evelyn, who would serve as Chairman from 1976 until 2003. In 1980, Bernie returned to Corporate Finance, this time concentrating on cross-border transactions. The next couple of years saw him become Group Finance Director of Rothschild Continuation Holding AG and Head of International Operations.

“From 1982 until my initial retirement in 1996 I undertook several significant transactions alongside my central Rothschild & Co responsibilities. In 1984 I advised the Bank of England on the successful rescue of Johnson Matthey. The following year, as part of Rothschild & Co’s planning for ‘Big Bang’, we acquired a stake in Smith Brothers, a stock jobber. I was a non- executive Director for some ten years as we grew it, under the name Smith New Court, from a market capitalisation of £10m to the £500m that Merrill Lynch paid when they acquired it in 1995.”

Initially planning to retire in 1996 after 24 years at the firm, Bernie says a change of plans and an accommodating proposal by management led to him stay, and he eventually doubled his tenure. “Evelyn was kind enough to suggest that I take an office at New Court and work three days a week. The subsequent 22 years allowed me to undertake several outside Directorships and investments whilst performing non-executive roles within Rothschild & Co.

A few favourite memories

Though Bernie looks back fondly on many memories throughout his time at the firm, he shared a few of his favourite aspects of his role over the years. “My International responsibilities enabled me to travel widely,” he says, recalling a trip to Shanghai in the 70s that stood out. As a frequent Concorde flyer, Bernie also had the opportunity to join British Airways’ 10th anniversary flight to New York.

Of course, working across decades of successful mandates provided a number of highlights. These included client assignments for IPO’s, sales, acquisitions and general financial advice. There were, in addition, acquisitions and disposals for Rothschild & Co, extending beyond Europe, to include Chile (BICE) and Canada (Global Strategy).

However, says Bernie, “These transactions pale into insignificance when set alongside the wonderful experience of working for and alongside some exceptional colleagues over a 47-year career. My recent retirement party, hosted by David de Rothschild, was a very special occasion and I will always treasure the memory of it.”

What is the final day at the office like at a workplace where one’s spent 47 years? “Very strange,” remarks Bernie. “My office was empty, and the day was filled with frequent farewells. At three in the afternoon I decided that there was nothing else to do but to walk to the lift and leave New Court. Perhaps I expected a guard of honour and military band, but I could not find them!”

There are many things Bernie looks forward to about retirement. The newly freed time in his week will allow him to enjoy more of his other interests, including bridge, golf, theatre, watching Arsenal, and spending time with his five grandchildren. He is also excited about the opportunity to keep in touch with old colleagues and friends through the Rothschild & Co Alumni Network.

But after spending nearly five decades in the corporate world, it’s perhaps unsurprising that Bernie’s retirement plans don’t eschew his work experience entirely. “I have retained several outside Directorships and Investments and may take on some new ones.” In collaboration with a colleague, he’s also established an organisation called Mentor 2000 LLP, which provides pro-bono advice and assistance to early-stage businesses. “This has been very interesting and rewarding, and we have received positive feedback from the recipients.”

Overall, says Bernie, “It has been a stimulating, enjoyable and challenging career, during which I have been involved in many aspects of the Rothschild & Co group and have watched it grow and develop. I have also had the pleasure and privilege of working with many people, some of whom have become close friends.”

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David de Rothschild and Bernie Myers at his retirement party in 2019

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