Sir Roger Cork Lord Mayor 1996-1997, Master 1988-1990
Sir Roger Cork died on October the 21st 2002 at the age of 55. He was a expert in corporate insolvency work and an ebullient Lord Mayor of London.
In both his professional and civic careers, Roger followed in the footsteps of his formidable father, Sir Kenneth known as "the great liquidator", who was also Lord Mayor. Their firm, Cork Gully in which Roger became a partner in 1970, was the pre-eminent name in insolvency for four decades, and had its finest hour in the property crash crisis of 1973 to 1975, when it backed the Bank of England to prevent a wide spread collapse of "secondary banks", which had lent heavily in the property sector. A scheme to hold at bay the City creditors of the Stern Group - which was Britain's biggest bankruptcy case - while its properties were sold in an orderly manner became known as "Cork's Dam."
Despite his relative youth, Roger Cork worked alongside his father on their most sensitive assignments. In 1973 he had to go to the High Court to overturn a decision that he was too young, at 25, to be a liquidator to one collapsed property company, Ickfield Development. Roger's style was more approachable that Sir Kenneth's, which verged on frightening; but he could be just as effective.
When the two were appointed joint receivers to the former Fisher Bendix factory on Mersyside, it was Roger who negotiated with Tony Benn, as industry minister, an injection of state cash to keep the plant alive as a workers co-operative. "We have just consented to Roger Cork's rather arrogant conditions for refinancing the company". Harold Wilson told Sir Kenneth over lunch "who is he, your uncle?."
Roger Cork became the 669th Lord Mayor of London in 1996 - his father having held office in 1978-79 - taking as his motto "making Britain ever Greater" and declaring he wanted to "restore the pride in being British". Though his wife Barbara had died of cancer only four months earlier he was tireless in his role as spokesman for the City.
He relished the pageantry of Office, but added elements of informality: his daughters acted as hostesses at Mansion House Parties, at which the guest lists included names such as Sir Cliff Richard and Dame Edna Everidge. Nor was he afraid of controversy, making his views very plain on the inadequacy of London's transport infrastructure.
He raised £1.3 million for cancer research during his mayoral year, not least by completing a sponsored cycle ride from John o' Groats to Lands End. He averaged 75 miles a day, no small achievement for one with the proportions of a City trencherman, and called the experience "the best cure for a hangover."
Roger William Cork was born on March 31st 1947 and was educated at Uppingham. In 1965 he joined the firm of Moore Stephens, where he was articled to the senior partner Hobart Moore, a friend of his father, who told him it was better to make useful mistakes away from the family firm. Roger qualified as an accountant in 1969, and moved to Cork Gully the same year.
Roger's grandfather, WH Cork, had built up an insolvency practice largely on the provisions trade, in which in the early part of the last century many small operators were driven out of business by the growth of multiple grocers. The key to success according to WH, was the ability to dominate a creditors meeting by force of personality: this he did in style arriving in a Rolls-Royce which, struck fear into his competitors before the meeting had even begun.
In 1935 WH Cork formed a partnership with his newly qualified son Kenneth and another accountant, Harry Gully. After WH's death and a period of war service, Kenneth became the sole owner of the firm and built it up in the 1950s and 1960s to lead the field in the City insolvency work. It handled cases such as the Rolls Razor washing machine company and of Emil Savundra the insurance fraudster.
In 1980, as Sir Kenneth approached retirement, father and son decided to merge Cork Gully into the larger firm of Coopers & Lybrand. High profile failures such as the De Lorean car project continued to come into their hands, but the merger arrangement was not an entirely happy one. After Sir Kenneth's death in 1991, Roger returned to Moore Stephens where he built up the corporate recovery practice and was a partner from 1994 - 1999 The name of Cork Gully was expunged within Coopers, now part of PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Roger Cork followed his father as Alderman for Tower Ward in 1983, and was Sheriff of the City in 1992-93. An enthusiastic member of many City livery guilds he was a past master of the Bowyer's Company and the World Traders Company. He was president of the Institute of Credit Management. He was knighted in 1997.
Having taken early retirement from business in 1999, Cork remained active in support of the Cancer Research campaign and other medical charities, and in City affairs. In May 2002 he presided as Lord Mayor locum tenens at the unveiling of the Guildhall of a controversial statue of Margaret Thatcher, which had been commissioned for the Palace of Westminster.
Roger Cork enjoyed sailing in the South of France. He married in 1970 Barbara Harper who had been a colleague at Moore Stephens: they had a son, Christopher and two daughters: Melissa and Georgina.
A Personal Memory by Past Master Peter Forrester
You will have seen the obituaries in the National Newspapers and those of you who have connections with the Tower Ward Club or indeed the many Livery Companies Roger was involved in will have read the reports of his life, his work in the City, his Mayoralty, his devotion to his family, his humour and his delight to have fun.
You may also have been present at the Thanksgiving service for his life in St. Paul's, which captured the spirit of how we all in the Bowyers knew him. It was a privilege to be part of the team who organised the event and make a small contribution to the memory of a man I have known for 38 years.
Wherever the meeting, whatever the occasion, the one thing you could be certain of was that when Roger was there you would always laugh at some point together.
It was not a laughter born of the latest joke, although he did tell them studiously with great concentration so as not to mess up the punch line.
It was a laughter of happiness, one of those moments which warned you that the occasion should not be too serious.
And yet there was the highly committed professional approach to events or matters which demanded that Roger stood up and was counted in his beliefs or his duty, even to his detriment when he might have appeared to have been a lone voice.
His faith, unswerving and steadfast as a Christian was always impressive and perhaps it was this happiness he found that translated into the laughter we always had together.
To try and read the appointments in his diary was impossible, even he had trouble reading his own writing, but the quantity of appointments mostly of a charitable or City connection was unbelievable. It never ceased to amaze how he crammed them all in, but as he said it did save him shopping for food in the week as usually the meetings involved eating of some kind.
Yet he was always there for his family and friends, and family engagements and weddings were a spendiferous affair organised by Roger in the meticulous way in which he went about his daily dozen.
You will have your own fond memories of Roger, his kindness, his honesty, his generosity and above all the memory of the fun it was to be around him.
Guard them well.