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Lex Greensill rose from Queensland cane farmer to billionaire financier before empire collapsed 

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The Australian founder of a company which has collapsed in a global financial disaster seemed destined to spend his working life as a sugar cane farmer in Queensland

Now the billionaire might have to head back to the land after his $6billion business went bust, destroying dreams, ruining reputations and threatening tens of thousands of jobs. 

Lex Greensill once strode the world stage and counted among his senior advisers former foreign minister Julie Bishop and onetime British prime minister David Cameron. 

The 44-year-old was invested as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Prince Charles in 2017 for services to business. 

The Australian founder of a company which has collapsed in a global financial disaster seemed destined to spend his working life as a sugar cane farmer in Queensland. Now Lex Greensill (pictured)  might have to head back to the land after his $6billion business went bust

Lex Greensil was invested as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Prince Charles in 2017 for services to business. He is pictured at Buckingham Palace with wife Vicky

Lex Greensil was invested as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Prince Charles in 2017 for services to business. He is pictured at Buckingham Palace with wife Vicky 

Greensill lives with his doctor wife Vicky and their two children in an old vicarage (pictured) in the village of Saughall near Cheshire, about 300km north-west of London

Greensill lives with his doctor wife Vicky and their two children in an old vicarage (pictured) in the village of Saughall near Cheshire, about 300km north-west of London

Greensill has now grounded his fleet of four private jets and has little use for his suite of offices across the road from the Savoy Hotel in London.

The collapse of Greenhill Capital came quickly after global wealth manager Credit Suisse suspended $10billion of investment funds. 

It is a swift fall for a man who said his business was motivated by his own farming family’s financial struggles – sometimes waiting years to be paid by creditors.  

Alexander David ‘Lex’ Greensill was born in Bundaberg where his parents grew sugar cane, sweet potato and melons and he was expected to follow them into the family business. 

Instead, Greensill graduated from Kepnock State High School and studied law by correspondence through Queensland University of Technology.

He got a job as a clerk with a local solicitor, moved to Sydney and in 2011 he was off London where four years later he joined Morgan Stanley then Citigroup. 

The collapse of Greenhill Capital came quickly after global wealth manager Credit Suisse suspended $10billion of investment funds. It is a swift fall for a man who said his business was motivated by his own family's financial struggles

The collapse of Greenhill Capital came quickly after global wealth manager Credit Suisse suspended $10billion of investment funds. It is a swift fall for a man who said his business was motivated by his own family’s financial struggles

Greensill has now grounded his fleet of four private jets and now has little use for his suite of offices across the road from the Savoy Hotel in London. He is pictured being invested as a Commander of the British Empire by Prince Charles

Greensill has now grounded his fleet of four private jets and now has little use for his suite of offices across the road from the Savoy Hotel in London. He is pictured being invested as a Commander of the British Empire by Prince Charles

He served as a senior advisor to Cameron on ‘supply chain finance’ and had an office at 10 Downing Street. (He also once worked for US president Barack Obama). 

Greensill had seen first-hand the impact late payments by retailers to his family and went out on his own in 2011, founding Greensill Capital, based in London. 

The company specialised in providing small and medium-sized businesses access to so-called working capital finance to run their day-to-day operations.

This meant offering early payment to cover money due to be paid by bigger companies and government agencies.

Greenhill would charge the businesses seeking early payment a fee of about 1 per cent of the sum provided and it would be be paid in full by the suppliers’ customers when the invoices were settled.

‘We unlock capital so the world can put it to work,’ its website stated. ‘No other bank or financial services company has our passion and expertise.’ 

The company expanded quickly and Greensill Capital provided $143billion worth of finance to more than 10 million customers in 165 countries. 

Greensill had seen first-hand the impact late payments by retailers to his family and went out on his own in 2011, founding Greensill Capital, based in London. A Gulfstream jet owned by Greensill Capital is pictured

Greensill had seen first-hand the impact late payments by retailers to his family and went out on his own in 2011, founding Greensill Capital, based in London. A Gulfstream jet owned by Greensill Capital is pictured

The company expanded quickly and Greensill Capital provided $143billion worth of finance to more than 10 million customers in 165 countries. The interior of one of Lex Greensill's jets is pictured

The company expanded quickly and Greensill Capital provided $143billion worth of finance to more than 10 million customers in 165 countries. The interior of one of Lex Greensill’s jets is pictured

Greensill had offices in Sydney, London, New York, Chicago, Frankfurt, Johannesburg, Singapore, Bogota and Bremen with more than 800 global employees. 

‘I had big dreams and I’m obviously thrilled but I would be lying if I said this was what I expected,’ Mr Greensill told his local paper, the Bundaberg News-Mail, in 2019.

Greensill claimed blue-chip clients such as Airbus, Vodaphone and General Mills but 90 per cent of the company’s revenue came from just five customers, according to documents tendered in a London court. 

It has been reported more than half of Greensill’s business came from British-Indian billionaire Sanjeev Gupta, whose businesses include a steelworks in South Australia’s Whyalla.

In a speech at his old university in August 2019 Greensill said he had been driven by knowing how hard it was for farmers in regional Queensland to secure finance.

Two years ago Greensill spent $4.1 million to buy a three-level beachfront home at Bargara near Bundaberg called The Glass House', setting a new real estate price record for the region

Two years ago Greensill spent $4.1 million to buy a three-level beachfront home at Bargara near Bundaberg called The Glass House’, setting a new real estate price record for the region

'At all times my feet are still on the red soil ground of Bundaberg... farming teaches you humility and that keeps it real,' Lex Greensill told a Queensland University of Technology audience. His home near Bundaberg is pictured

‘At all times my feet are still on the red soil ground of Bundaberg… farming teaches you humility and that keeps it real,’ Lex Greensill told a Queensland University of Technology audience. His home near Bundaberg is pictured 

He told that audience how he still got back behind the wheel of a sugar cane harvester 18 hours after meeting a bank boss in Tokyo.

‘At all times my feet are still on the red soil ground of Bundaberg… farming teaches you humility and that keeps it real,’ he said.

‘My only claim to fame is that I’m the only boy from Bundaberg ever to have an office at number 10 Downing Street.’

That same year Greensill spent $4.1 million to buy a three-level beachfront home at Bargara near Bundaberg called The Glass House’, setting a new real estate price record for the region.

In October last year, Greensill talked of selling a ‘small stake’ in his company for hundreds of millions of dollars – suggesting it was worth more than $6billion. 

By early 2021 Greensill Capital was on the verge of bankruptcy and its German subsidiary was closed on March 3 by the country’s financial regulatory authority. 

David Cameron once employed Lex Greensill as an adviser and later worked for the company

Julie Bishop was made an adviser to Greensill Capital in 2019

Lex Greensill once strode the world stage and counted among his senior advisers former foreign minister Julie Bishop (right) and onetime British prime minister David Cameron (left)

Later in March the company revealed it was in ‘severe financial distress’ and unable to repay a $140million loan to global wealth Credit Suisse, which froze $10billion in funds.  

Greensill Capital filed for insolvency protection on March 8 and has since come under legal and parliamentary scrutiny. 

Lex Greensill has taken full responsibility for the collapse of his finance group ahead of being questioned by British lawmakers. 

‘I bear complete responsibility for the collapse of Greensill Capital,’ he said in a video statement.

Greensill has also said a decision by the company’s leading insurer Tokio Marine to withdraw cover ultimately led to the group’s failure.

Finance house Athene Holding Ltd has looked at what remains of Greensill and offered just $60million for its computer systems and intellectual property.

Forensic accountant Stephen Clapham told Bloomberg he had examined some of Greensill’s packaged loans and was unimpressed.

In 2018 Greenill told the Australian Financial Review that he was 'still a farmer at heart.' 'Bundaberg is my home,' he said. 'It's where I came from, and I visited there about eight times last year with my wife'

In 2018 Greenill told the Australian Financial Review that he was ‘still a farmer at heart.’ ‘Bundaberg is my home,’ he said. ‘It’s where I came from, and I visited there about eight times last year with my wife’

‘There were red flags everywhere,’ he said. ‘If I were a professional investor, it would literally take me five minutes to decide that this was uninvestable.’

Cameron, who became an adviser to Greensill in 2018, has become embroiled in the disaster, giving evidence before two British parliamentary committees about his involvement in the company. 

The Treasury Committee has released dozens of texts and emails Cameron sent to ministers and senior officials appealing for help in gaining access for Greensill to Covid-19 support programmes.

Greensill lives with his doctor wife Vicky and their two children in an old vicarage in the village of Saughall near Cheshire, about 300km north-west of London.

Fortunately, Greenhill’s two brothers still run the 3,000 hectare family farming operation across four properties. 

In 2018 Greenill told the Australian Financial Review that he was ‘still a farmer at heart.’

‘Bundaberg is my home,’ he said. ‘It’s where I came from, and I visited there about eight times last year with my wife.

‘I’m a farmer at heart. Whenever I’m home I jump on a tractor and have a play. I don’t think of myself as a corporate titan.’ And now he’s not.

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