Peter Neville Buckley

(1942 - 2008)

Peter Neville Buckley, born on September 23 1942, was a Cayzer through his mother, Heather, daughter of Sir August Cayzer, Bt, who was Sir Charles's third son. Heather's second husband was an Army officer, Major Edward Richard Buckley.

After Eton and Manchester Business School, Peter served articles with McClelland Moores (later Ernst & Young), qualifying as a chartered accountant in 1966. Two years later he joined British & Commonwealth Shipping (later British & Commonwealth Holdings), of which he was executive director from 1974. The Cayzers successfully diversified away from shipping, notably into financial services. But presciently they sold their entire stake in British & Commonwealth – which was by then being run by the money broking tycoon John Gunn – just days before the 1987 crash. They held their remaining business interests and investments through Caledonia, of which Buckley became deputy chairman and chief executive after B&C was sold. He became chairman in 1994.

Under Buckley – who was once described as "Pope-like in his integrity" – Caledonia produced a consistently strong performance, increasing its dividend every year for 41 years. One of the successful investments attributed to Buckley was Caledonia's stake in Close Brothers, the merchant bank.

His cousin, Sir James Cayzer, however, became increasingly disenchanted with the way in which the family fortune was being managed, and in particular with the arrangements by which family members were allowed to sell their trust shares only to other members at a substantial discount to their real asset value. He had the support of other family members, among them the 3rd Lord Rotherwick.

"Some members of the family are not rich," Sir James said. "If they want to sell their shares they should get a fair value so that they can buy a house or provide schooling [for their children]."

In May 2001 Sir James resigned from the trust board, and at an extraordinary general meeting his camp proposed a motion of no confidence in Buckley's management. Buckley argued that what Sir James was proposing would amount to the liquidation of the trust, and the motion was soundly defeated.

As factions of the family continued to fight among themselves, in 2004 Caledonia underwent a restructuring that enabled some members to withdraw their money without breaking up the business. Buckley, in the meantime, had relinquished the role of chief executive of Caledonia in 2002 while remaining chairman.

Away from business, Buckley enjoyed golf and shooting; but his true passion was gardening, and he won a number of prizes in the RHS camellia competitions.

He also had a great enthusiasm for rhododendrons, and over the years had been developing a woodland garden at his home in Dumfriesshire, where he farmed 2,000 acres. One visitor was charmed by the extensive gardens, describing them as "harmonious with the countryside rather than an arrogant stamp on an unruly landscape".

Having joined the RHS council in 1998, Buckley became its treasurer in 2002 and president in 2006, succeeding Sir Richard Carew-Pole, with whom he masterminded the fund-raising for the new glasshouse at Wisley; this opened on time in 2006, and on budget at £7.8 million. He took a keen interest in every aspect of the Society's operations, and played an important part in shaping its charitable work.

He was chairman of English & Scottish Investors (1988–2002); of Sterling Industries (1988–2005); the Bristow Helicopter Group (1991–2004); and, from 1996, of Bristow Aviation Holdings.

His non-executive directorships included the Telegraph Group (until 2001), RHS Enterprises, Kerzner International (formerly Sun International Hotels), the Close Brothers Group, and Offshore Logistics (later the Bristow Group).

In May this year Buckley described the Labour Government as "a shabby lot" and asked Caledonia shareholders' permission to donate £75,000 to the Conservative Party. He also condemned what he described as the growing politicisation of the civil service.

Peter Buckley married, in 1967, Mary Barabel Stewart, with whom he had two daughters.

Daily Telegraph - 17 December 2008

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