Ex Northern Rock chairman 'enormously regrets' crisis

The former chairman of Northern Rock today spoke of his remorse for his part in the Northern Rock crisis.

The former chairman of Northern Rock today spoke of his remorse for his part in the Northern Rock crisis.

Matt Ridley, who was non-executive chairman of the Rock between 2004 and 2007, was blamed for “damaging the good name of British banking” when the lender almost collapsed and needed a £26bn (€31.6bn) British government bail-out.

Mr Ridley, 52, followed his father Viscount Ridley in the role, who was chairman of the bank from 1987 to 1992.

At the height of the financial crisis Mr Ridley was hauled before the Treasury Select Committee along with senior executives at the bank and found himself criticised for his lack of banking knowledge.

“I enormously regret what happened at Northern Rock,” he told The Journal newspaper. “It’s an incredibly painful memory for me and it’s something that I will live with for the rest of my life.

“I have nothing but remorse for my role in what happened. I’ve apologised and explained as much as I can what happened before the Treasury Select Committee.

“We were all taken by surprise by that. There was almost nobody who saw it coming. Those who did were not in the right place to warn everyone else.

“Northern Rock ended up suffering a fate no different from any other mortgage bank. They all disappeared as a result of the crisis, and I learnt a lot from it.”

Mr Ridley, who is a respected science writer, was criticised by the Treasury Select Committee in 2007 for overseeing the bank’s risky business strategy.

At the time he claimed the bank had been hit by “wholly unexpected” and unprecedented events.

Under his chairmanship Northern Rock became the first British bank since 1878 to suffer a run on its finances.

Although not a trained economist, he was the third generation of his family to sit on the board of Northern Rock.

And Mr Ridley claims he’s never been against regulation, as some of his critics insist.

“I’m against over-regulation of some markets,” he told the newspaper. “I’ve always been of the view that financial markets were under-regulated and commercial markets were over-regulated.”

Mr Ridley, who is honorary life president of the International Centre for Life in Newcastle, added: “Yes, I have a catastrophic black mark against my CV because of Northern Rock.

“But I also have something that I’m very proud of, and I was chairman of this place (The Centre for Life) longer than I was chairman of Northern Rock.”

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