Hostile bid thrusts low profile financier into spotlight

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When Jim Craig moved to London from Australia in 2001, it would have been hard to imagine that four years later he would be leading a hostile bid for the London Stock Exchange.

At the time, Macquarie was still a small player in London. But over the next few years the softly-spoken executive embarked on a rapid expansion, swallowing up assets as diverse as Bristol and Birmingham Airports, South East Water (all in the UK), wind farms in France and Sweden and Yellow Brick Road, an operator of telephone directories across Europe.

Macquarie’s acquisition spree, and the prices it has been willing to pay for some assets, has made it the first call for many bankers selling a business. Indeed, some bankers will ask Macquarie to show an interest in a particular deal in the knowledge that it may prompt other bidders to offer more.

From his office at the top of City Point, the office block near Moorgate Station in the heart of the City, Mr Craig oversees a European operation of 500 people. Of these, half work in corporate finance and in the bank’s funds, while the rest work in areas such as commodities and equities.

Mr Craig did not start out as an infrastructure expert. After joining Macquarie in 1994 he specialised as a corporate financier, and worked on several gold mining transactions. He moved to London in 2001 to take charge of the bank’s European advisory business, quickly expanding the team of infrastructure experts with dedicated experts in areas such as airports, toll roads and utilities. In August 2003, he became head of Macquarie’s European operations, replacing John Roberts, who returned to Sydney.

Despite Macquarie’s rapid growth, Mr Craig has kept a relatively low profile. Following yesterday’s bid, however, he finds himself firmly in the spotlight.

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