EXCLUSIVE: Former taipan to take charge at Morgan Stanley

The former taipan of Jardine Matheson has leapt into a new role at top US investment bank Morgan Stanley

FinanceAsia can exclusively reveal that the former taipan of Jardine Matheson, Alasdair Morrison is to join Morgan Stanley.

Morrison, who was ousted in a boardroom coup inspired by Jardines’ majority shareholder the Keswick Family in February, is initially to join Morgan Stanley as a managing director. However, the intention is that he will eventually succeed Jack Wadsworth, the firm’s long term Asia Chairman.

Morrison, who was a Jardine careerist, will be tossed into the hurly-burly of investment banking after a career in the more pedestrian Jardines, Hong Kong’s oldest and most famous company.

What does Morrison bring to the world’s top investment bank? Certainly not contacts in China, given that under his tenure, Jardines delisted from Hong Kong and was described by the country’s official mouthpiece, Xinhua as "craving only chaos".

His contacts in Hong Kong are almost certainly better, although as taipan of Jardines you make as many friends as enemies.

He is described by those who know him as incredibly intelligent, but a bit of a loner. For example, he has been spotted walking parts of the Maclehose Trail on his own.

During his tenure at Jardines he held the positions of head of personnel, and ran HongkongLand – although during his tenure, the property business was not overtly aggressive.

He was made taipan of the conglomerate in 1994 – and almost immediately the controlling shareholder, the Keswick family moved Jardines major listing from Hong Kong to Singapore in a move which FinanceAsia has estimated has lost Jardines $7 billion of shareholder value every year since (see cover story, FinanceAsia July/ August edition).

During the latter part of his time as taipan he hired key people such as Norman Lyle from the outside and introduced shareholder friendly concepts such as hurdle rates of return and EVA. He was also thought to favour a relisting in Hong Kong. However, the Keswick family opposed this and eventually matters came to a head in February, when he left.

At Morgan Stanley the Scottish corporate chieftain will bring a wealth of Asian experience to the table. And insofar as recent hires go, this is easily the most high profile of the Summer.

Interestingly, Morrison will be the first ever Jardines taipan to work for an American investment bank – or in fact an investment bank of any nationality.

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