- About us
In this section
On 2 February 2015 Clarksons PLC completed its acquisition of RS Platou ASA. This major development brought together two heritage businesses and positioned the new Group as the lead provider and clear market leader across the shipping and offshore industries. The resulting enlarged financial division is at the forefront of providing debt and equity capital solutions as well as risk management strategies to its clients, whilst also offering debt restructuring, corporate finance and equity research across global maritime, oil services and natural resources sectors.
This was a year of great celebration, with metaphorical (and real) champagne corks popping on an almost monthly basis. In addition to our 160th anniversary, 2012 was also the year of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee as well as the hugely successful Olympic and Paralympic Games in London: we were proud to see the UK Athletics Board chaired by our Non-executive director Ed Warner. Furthermore, Clarksons director Jeffrey Evans was appointed as one of the Sheriffs of the City of London. His role is to help the Lord Mayor carry out official duties, which include attending sessions at the Old Bailey and presenting petitions to Parliament.
In 2011, we celebrated 30 years of meeting client needs in Asia, one of the shipping industry’s most important markets. Our first Asian office in the region opened its doors in 1981, and we marked the 30th anniversary with a party in Singapore for staff and clients from around the globe. Today, we remain firmly committed to Asia and maintain a significant presence in the region.
Our results for 2008 were the best in our history. Revenue was just over £250 million, a 44 per cent increase on the previous year – itself a record – achieved despite the effects of a worldwide recession during the fourth quarter. The year also saw the opening of new offices in Brisbane, Delhi, Geneva, Hamburg and Perth, increasing the number of Clarksons offices to 26 across five continents.
Our London premises on the banks of the River Thames near Tower Bridge are less than a mile from the offices in America Square, now Crosswall, which we occupied in 1852.
Get on this boat before it leaves port', said the 'Investor's Chronicle' in January 2003, in a piece urging readers to invest in Clarksons shares. They were right – we went on to register record profits for the next three years, of £12m, £23m and £27m respectively.
In 2002 at the age of 90, Sir Alexander ('Sandy') Glen, our Chairman from 1962-72, published a book about his experiences in World War II. 'Target Danube' reads like an Ian Fleming novel – and explains why Sandy was one of the role models for the character of James Bond.
One of the first brokers to develop links with shipyards in Japan and later Korea, we were presented with a salver by the South Korean Daewoo shipyard in 1997. This marked contracts with them totalling US$1billion, a figure significantly exceeded in subsequent years.
In 1992 and again the following year, our offices were impacted by IRA bombs which damaged numerous buildings in the City. The first wrecked the Baltic Exchange, and the second obliged us to move into temporary accommodation for nine months whilst our Camomile Street offices were refurbished.
In 1983, our Chairman Carron Grieg became the first person from Clarksons to be elected Chairman of the Baltic Exchange. The Baltic began life in 1744 as a coffee house for merchants but by the beginning of the 20th century had become recognised as the centre of the world’s dry cargo chartering market, establishing and enforcing the ethical standards which governed shipbroking.
The 1970s was a highly successful period in our history. Shipbroking, shipowning and insurance broking all contributed to record profits of £1.7 million in 1971 - a substantial figure at that time. The year was crowned by the presentation of the Queen’s Award for Industry for outstanding achievement in export services. Profits surged to £5.1 million in 1975 and to £5.9 million a year later.
We were the prime motivators behind the Seabridge pool of 27 bulk and combined carriers which was designed to secure for British shipowners a share of the worldwide dry cargo business at the time handled by Scandinavian, Greek and Hong Kong owners. Members of the Seabridge pool of bulk carriers included Bibby Line, Bowrings, Furness Withy, Houlders and Silver Line. We were the major contributor, with six vessels totalling more than 700,000 dwt.
Our renowned research capability can be traced back to a request from Esso in 1961 to take on publication of its annual directory of the world’s tanker fleet. Today, our research teams are recognised throughout the shipping industry as world leaders in the provision of maritime information in many different formats.
Our first foothold overseas was in New York in 1956. This was soon followed by the opening of offices in France, Australia and Germany and, in the 1960s, in South Africa and Greece. Expansion in the Far East began in the 1990s when, through Clarkson Asia, companies were established in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore. Recent years have seen an even more significant expansion, increasing the number of our offices to 34, across five continents.
The middle years of the 20th century saw Clarksons begin to diversify, first into insurance broking, which continued for many years, and then into inclusive holidays, transport and other services. These latter ventures were grouped under the umbrella of Shipping Industrial Holdings, which was sold in 1974. In 1984, we began to develop the breadth of services which form the basis for our current strength, including freight futures, financial services and property services, as well as stevedoring and warehousing.
Five knights of the realm have served us as Chairman – Sir Karl Knudsen (1919-27), Sir Osborn Holmden (1941-45), Sir Alexander Glen (1962-72), Sir Peter Parker (1973-75) and Sir Carron Greig (1975-93). In addition, our boardroom has been graced by many other notable people, including Sir Alan Campbell, Sir Alexander Durie, Admiral Sir John Eccles, Sir Ian Morrow, Sir Patrick Reilly, Sir Ian Scott and the Rt Hon Reginald Maudling.
We were a minor player in tanker broking until Esso decided to appoint an exclusive shipbroker in 1929. Facing tough competition, our Chairman, Sir Osborn Holmden, visited Esso's formidable President, Walter C Teagle, in New York to plead his case. Both men, it transpired, shared a love of Labradors and talked for an hour of little else – and it was largely thanks to two gundogs that we won the business, becoming the biggest tanker brokers in the world as a result.
Although we no longer own ships, we have done so at various times over the years, going back to the 1870s when we held shares in Norwegian ships carrying guano from South America. In the 1950s, we became owners in our own right and at one point had a fleet of six bulk carriers of over 700,000dwt, all later sold. In total, we have owned a variety of tonnage including tankers, general cargo ships, ore carriers, refrigerated cargo vessels and products tankers, all of which have now been sold.
From our earliest days, Clarksons was an internationally-focused business. When the company began inviting clients – from France, Germany, Italy and especially Scandinavia – to send their sons to spend a couple of years learning the business as 'Volunteers', the staff also took on a distinctly international flavour.
In 1852, Horace Anderton Clarkson started the business with the help of a family legacy. The son of a prosperous lawyer, he invited Leon Benham, a former colleague, to run the business for him. Benham was at that time out of work and so poverty-stricken that he had to walk the 150 miles from Cardiff to London to join his new partner... but he was to be the driving force behind Clarksons for nearly 30 years.