London: Raj Bagri, who died in London on Wednesday, was the longest serving chairman in the history of the London Metal Exchange (LME) and known for his contributions to several social causes, including those of the Indian community in the UK.
Born in Kolkata on 24 August 1930, Bagri was a self-made man with several achievements in the world of business, particularly in metals. He is particularly known for modernizing the LME.
“He was a pillar of the Indian community. He came to this country at a young age and gained much respect. It is a big loss to us. He had a quiet, under-stated personality and contributed much to the community,” industrialist Swraj Paul told Hindustan Times on Thursday.
C.B. Patel, community leader and publisher of Gujarat Samachar, said: “He was a totally self-made person, a humble man, but always strove to cherish and maintain values. Many individuals and institutions have benefited from his support and advice.”
Bagri led LME’s demutualisation in September 2000, which changed its foundations by transferring the market from a cooperative-style structure to a private shareholder-owned exchange, which in turn accelerated the market’s modernisation, ensured its continued growth and helped retain its position as the world’s leading metals exchange.
Bagri’s fascination with the world of metals was evident when, regaining consciousness from a medical condition after a protracted period earlier this month, his first question to his son Apurv was: “What’s the price of copper?”
He was awarded a royal honour (CBE, or Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) in 1995 and next year was made a peer in the House of Lords. He gave up his seat in the House in 2010 when rules changed and he preferred to retain his non-domicile status for tax purposes.
Bagri also oversaw the introduction of an electronic trading platform at the LME. He leaves behind wife Usha, son Apurv and daughter Amita, who lives in India.
Bagri lost his father when he was three; his mother sent him to work at 15 as a filing clerk for a metals firm in Kolkata in order to understand the value of money – this was when his fascination with metals began.
The young Raj Bagri, apprenticed to the Binani family’s Metal Distributors company, learned quickly. He convinced his bosses to send him to Malaysia to pitch to a major tin producer in Penang.
He later shifted to London, eventually moving there permanently with his wife Usha after persuading his bosses to allow him to set up a trading firm, Metal Distributors (UK).
Unable to become a member of the LME due to Indian foreign exchange controls at the time, Bagri continued to run Metal Distributors (UK) but also set up Metdist, which finally joined the LME a decade later after he worked assiduously to persuade the exchange to open its doors to foreign members.
He created the Bagri Foundation, a UK-registered charity, in 1990, providing philanthropic assistance through its work in education, the advancement of health and preservation of Asian cultural heritage.