Peter Bowring, who has died aged 89, was chairman of his family’s City insurance business until it fell to an American takeover, and a tireless trustee and fundraiser for a portfolio of good causes.
Source: The Telegraph
Bowring’s great-great grandfather Benjamin, originally a watchmaker, founded a trading business in Newfoundland in 1811 and became the owner of a transatlantic sailing fleet. The family branched into shipping barrelled oil, and a British offshoot, CT Bowring & Co, was established first in Liverpool and later in London.
Though its steamship business eventually declined, the company emerged in the modern era as one of London’s pre-eminent insurance brokers, with close links to the Lloyd’s market and a range of interests across the financial sector.
Peter Bowring joined the trading side of the group in Liverpool in 1947. Having moved to London he became a director of CT Bowring & Co in 1956 and was chairman of a number of subsidiary businesses before becoming group chairman in 1978. Two years later came rumblings of an imminent bid from a US insurance giant, Marsh & McLennan, with which Bowrings had been discussing a pooling of interests. Despite this connection, Peter Bowring issued a warning that an offer to Bowring shareholders on any terms would be considered “an unfriendly act”, to be resisted “by any means available”.
He also appealed to the British Insurance Brokers’ Association and the Thatcher government for support; but the final price tabled by the Americans, well in excess of the group’s book value at around £250 million, was too rich for institutional shareholders to refuse, and terms were reluctantly agreed between the boards in April 1980. Some Bowring family members left the business, but Peter loyally remained to become a director and vice-chairman of Marsh & McLennan, finally retiring in 1985.
Peter Bowring was born in Cheshire on April 22 1923 and educated at Shrewsbury. In 1941 he volunteered for war service and was commissioned into the Rifle Brigade. Posted to the 7th Battalion in 1943, he served in Egypt, North Africa and throughout the hard-fought Italian campaign, in which he was battalion intelligence officer and was mentioned in despatches.
He found himself in Austria at the end of the war, and was posted back to Egypt before being demobbed in 1946. He later joined the territorial London Rifle Brigade Rangers, and was a member of the contingent that lined the route of George VI’s funeral cortege.
In tandem with his business life, Bowring gave his time and energy to a huge range of voluntary commitments, many concerned with raising money — bringing to all of them a lightness of touch and an ability to draw diverse contributions together.
He was chairman (and later president) of Help the Aged and was instrumental in securing Diana, Princess of Wales, as the charity’s Patron — which helped boost its income dramatically during the 1980s. He chaired appeals for (among many) the Dulwich Picture Gallery and the Snape Maltings — and subsequently became chairman of the Aldeburgh Festival-Snape Maltings Foundation, when it was teetering on insolvency in 1982. By the time he stood down in 1989 it was thriving again.
Bowring chaired the City Arts Trust which produced the annual City of London Festival, and the Transglobe Expedition Trust which promoted the educational aspects of Sir Ranulph Fiennes’s circumpolar travels, for which he had procured sponsorship from CT Bowring and Marsh & McLennan — a cooperation which sat somewhat uncomfortably during the acrimonious bid battle.
He was appointed CBE in 1993 for his voluntary work in the arts and for the elderly. He published a history of the Bowring family and its companies, A Thicket of Business, in 2007.
Peter Bowring married first, at Cairo Cathedral in 1946, Barbara Brewis; the marriage was dissolved, and he married secondly, in 1986, Carole Dear, who survives him with a son and daughter of his first marriage.
Peter Bowring, born April 22 1923, died December 1 2012