COPPER MEMORIAL FOR EX-INDIAN CHAIRMAN
by AMIT ROY
LORD Raj Kumar Bagri, who passed away in April this year at the age of 86, is to have an exceptional honour bestowed on him by the London Metal Exchange, where he was its “iconic” chairman for 10 years, the first Indian to hold the post.
“The LME is planning a memorial to Raj Bagri,” revealed Sir Brian Bender, the present LME chairman. “In view of his passion for copper, we are having a portrait of him engraved on to a copper cathode which will be hung by the ‘Ring’,” Sir Brian added, referring to the main trading area.
The cathode will be a high grade copper sheet engraved with Lord Bagri’s image – he will be shown wearing his peer’s robes. As chairman from 1993- 2002, Lord Bagri is credited with rescuing the LME, the world centre for industrial metals trading, when there was a global copper crisis in the 1990s.
He is also said to have modernised the institution which is now 140 years old.
“Lord Bagri contributed probably more to the London Metal Exchange than anyone else,” Sir Brian maintained. “He was its first non- British and his name is synonymous with the exchange.”
“The LME was keen to commemorate Lord Bagri in a way befitting his status not only as the LME’s longest-serving chairman and House of Lords peer, but as a doyen of the global metals community,” Sir Brian continued. “Copper was his favourite LME metal and we thought it apt to render a likeness of him not on canvass, but on an LME-grade copper cathode.”
At the LME’s annual dinner last month, Sir Brian said in his chairman’s speech: “I do want to single out one person, whose contribution was enormous and who sadly died earlier this year.” He said Lord Bagri “used his strategic foresight, intellect and passion to shape the metals industry and the LME”.
Sir Brian related an anecdote which reflected Lord Bagri’s lifelong fascination with copper: “His passion for copper was illustrated by the fact that, when regaining consciousness during his illness earlier this year, his first question to his son, Apurv, was ‘What’s the price of copper?’”
The dinner menu, which carried an image of Lord Bagri, noted: “His contribution to the LME, and the global metals industry, cannot be overstated. The Lord Bagri will be sorely missed.”
Raj Kumar Bagri was born in Calcutta on August 24, 1930, and began as a filing clerk at the age of 15.
His 57-year-old son, Apurv, president and CEO of Metdist, the firm his father set up in 1970 after arriving in London in 1959, said: “His family did not have the resources to send him to university. He ended up working with a distant relative in a small metal trading company in Calcutta called Metal Distributors.
“His first job was clearing cargo so he worked seven days a week, mostly out of the office in all weathers at the docks sorting out paperwork and ensuring the cargoes were quickly cleared. He then worked in the mail room which he used to always tell me was the best possible place to learn the metals business.
“In those days all correspondence was conducted by mail, so by opening all the mail and sorting out each item, and because he was so interested, he was able to learn about the metals industry.
“His fascination for coming to London had its origins in that same mail room where he was surrounded on a daily basis with correspondence from the great brokering and trading community in London.
“He decided at this early stage that if the opportunity ever arose, he would try and end up in London and create a name and reputation for himself.”