Son of James William Rivett-Carnac, Vice-Admiral and Isla Nesta Rivett-Carnac
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About Sir Miles Rivett-Carnac, 9th Baronet
Sir Miles Rivett-Carnac, Bt Sir Miles Rivett-Carnac, 9th Bt, who died on September 15 aged 76, was a naval officer who made a successful second career as a merchant banker with Baring Brothers. 6:15PM BST 06 Oct 2009Comment Rivett-Carnac joined the Royal Navy in 1950, and was a midshipman in the cruiser Gambia in the Mediterranean before joining the Royal Yacht Britannia as a sub-lieutenant in 1952. He went on to be a popular divisional officer (the equivalent of housemaster) at Dartmouth, returning to sea to command the minesweeper Woolaston in the Far East.
In 1965 Woolaston was on patrol off Borneo during the Confrontation with Indonesia when she encountered a sampan that had been booby-trapped with a mine; it exploded, killing one man and wounding eight, and putting the minesweeper out of action for six weeks. Rivett-Carnac was mentioned in despatches. After staff college at Norfolk, Virginia, Rivett-Carnac was appointed captain of the large fleet destroyer Dainty at the young age of 34 and looked set to go higher. But he did not relish spending much of his senior career in Whitehall, and left the Navy in 1970 to make a new start in the financial world. He was swiftly recruited by the Baring banking family, with the idea that — since he lived in Hampshire — he might be useful running an office in Southampton. That never came about, but his sound judgment of people and cheerful willingness to undertake any difficult task soon made him a key member of the bank’s corporate finance team in the City. He was also highly numerate, an aptitude that had been honed at the casino tables of Le Touquet, where he once broke the bank after an all-night session playing baccarat. On returning to his hotel very early the next morning, he threw open the door of his room to announce delightedly to his wife: “I’ve broken the bank” — to which the reply came: “Do you know what time it is?” Other casinos also lost out. One trainee joining the bank in the mid-1970s inherited a desk from Rivett-Carnac which was entirely empty except for a £5 chip from Crockfords. He became a director of Baring Brothers in 1976, and did stints running its businesses in South Africa and New York. Returning to London, he became a managing director in 1981, a deputy chairman of the group in 1988, and chairman of Baring Asset Management from 1989 until his first retirement from the bank at the end of 1992. He remained a non-executive director, but was recalled to duty early the following year to chair Baring Securities, the group’s trading arm which had fallen into losses and parted company with its high-profile chief executive, Christopher Heath. The new management team under Rivett-Carnac’s chairmanship brought the business back to what seemed to be an even keel — but also gave free rein to a young trader called Nick Leeson in Singapore. Rivett-Carnac retired for the second time at Christmas 1994, when profits for the year looked set for £60 million; but within three months, Leeson’s dealings had brought the bank down. Rivett-Carnac’s response was one of intense sadness: “Something of which I had been incredibly proud had been turned into rather a bad joke,” he wrote; the room provided by ING, Barings’s new owners, for the use of retired partners was “depressingly full of ghosts”. Miles James Rivett-Carnac was born on February 7 1933, the second son of Vice-Admiral Sir James Rivett-Carnac, 7th Bt, who was Commodore of the Royal New Zealand Navy in the 1930s and “admiral of the beaches” during the Normandy landings. The family surname was the result of the marriage of General John Carnac, commander-in-chief of the Indian Army, to Elizabeth Rivett, whose brother James was governor of Bombay. The marriage was childless, but James became the general’s heir on condition that the name was adopted. James’s eldest son, also James, was chairman of the East India Company, MP for Sandwich and briefly governor of Bombay; he was created a baronet in 1836. The family’s association with the Raj in succeeding generations was such that Kipling mentioned them in Tales from the Hills as one of the four leading families of British India. Miles, however, chose to follow his father into the Navy, and went straight from Lambrook prep school in Berkshire to Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, where he became chief cadet captain. An outstanding sportsman even as a small boy — according to legend, Lambrook’s opponents would whisper with awe: “But they’ve got Rivett-Carnac!” — he played cricket for Dartmouth in his first term and went on to captain the rugby team. In his business career Rivett-Carnac was also a director of the London Stock Exchange from 1991 to 1994 and of Domecq (formerly Allied Lyons). He was a member of the Council of King George’s Fund for Sailors (now Seafarers UK); chairman of Hampshire Boys’ Clubs; High Sheriff of Hampshire in 1995; and Vice-Lord Lieutenant of the county from 2000. He was also chairman of White’s Club, where he had to contend with the embarrassment of a blackball for the writer Auberon Waugh. In 1992 he was elected an Elder Brother of Trinity House, at a time of great change in its role both as a lighthouse and coastal navigation authority and as a grant-giving charity in the maritime sector. Rivett-Carnac’s analytical mind and business sense helped set the ancient corporation on a new course, and he was particularly instrumental in restoring the finances of its charitable arm, which had been hit by falling investment and property values. Besides his sporting enthusiasms, Rivett-Carnac was a lifelong stamp collector. His autobiography, From Ship to Shore, was published in 1998. He succeeded in the baronetcy on the death in 2004 of his brother Canon Sir Nicholas Rivett-Carnac, who was vicar of St Mark’s, Kensington. Miles Rivett-Carnac married, in 1958, April Villar. They had a daughter, Lucinda — better known as the handbag designer Lulu Guinness — and two sons, Jonathan and Simon. Jonathan, born in 1962, succeeds in the baronetcy.