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THE 1980'S


  • Garsan Limited is formed on 24 June 1980, Donald Gordon’s 50th birthday, with an initial share capital of £10,000.
  • Funded entirely by UK bank borrowings, a £20 million investment is made to acquire 14 per cent of Sun Life, a UK listed life insurer.


  • Garsan changes its name to TransAtlantic Insurance Holdings Limited. The Sun Life interest is increased to 21 per cent, funded by bank borrowings now increased to £30 million.


  • A 29 per cent interest is acquired in Capital & Counties by way of a share issue while the Sun Life interest is increased to 24 per cent and now shows a revaluation surplus of £23 million on a £37 million investment.
  • Shareholders’ funds jump to £78 million – the platform has been rapidly established.


  • Further capital of £32 million is raised by the issue of 21.5 million shares at 150p per share. Lincoln National, a life insurer from Fort Wayne, Indiana, USA, briefly appears on the scene as a 25 per cent shareholder.
  • Shareholders’ funds jump again to £145 million and a maiden dividend of 2.8p per share is declared.


  • Lincoln National departs from the scene as Liberty Life acquires their interest, restoring its shareholding to 75 per cent.
  • Further strong capital appreciation, particularly from the 25 per cent Sun Life interest, increases shareholders’ funds to £184 million.


  • From investor to operator – TransAtlantic makes a public offer and acquires a controlling stake in Capital & Counties which remains a listed company.
  • Total assets more than double to £461 million while total shareholders’ funds including minority interests increase by 79 per cent to £331 million.


  • Profit before taxation more than doubles to £24.4 million and, after further capital raising, shareholders’ funds increase to £519 million.
  • Relations with Sun Life plummet as TransAtlantic votes down a Sun Life shareholders’ resolution.


  • TransAtlantic lists on the Luxembourg Stock Exchange as London refuses a listing because Capital & Counties is also listed.
  • The overall group’s shareholders’ funds reach £751 million following a major capital raising exercise by Capital & Counties to finance its development programme.


  • The Lakeside, Thurrock, site is acquired for £64 million and construction starts.
  • The Sun Life impasse breaks as an attempted Sun Life alliance with a French group, UAP, is decisively rejected by shareholders and two TransAtlantic representatives join the Sun Life Board.


  • UK base rates jump from 7.5 per cent in 1988 to 15 per cent in 1989.
  • An accord is signed with UAP which had acquired by way of on-market purchases a 25 per cent interest in Sun Life approaching TransAtlantic’s 29 per cent.
  • The value of the Sun Life investment jumps from £151 million to £221 million while the property revaluations are more modest.