For 30 years British and Commonwealth Holdings - one-time owner of the world's biggest cargo ship fleet - lived at St Mary's Axe in the City, with a roster of crusty seamen greeting visitors at the front desk. One Thursday in mid-1987 they were all sacked. Next day, the old salts had been replaced by leggy women in fitted suits with million-dollar smiles. B and C's new chief executive, John Gunn, was making his mark on the old Cayzer family empire.
Upstairs on the first floor, Lord Cayzer, chairman of B and C and distinguished head of the Cornish-bred family now thought to be worth £400 million, sat down to his lunch in the executive dining room. The menu had changed. Instead of the old "school food" that he loved - the steak and kidney pie and spotted dick - there was nouvelle cuisine: weightless bits of bird and pineapple, and peas still in their pods. His clever find, this man John Gunn, clearly had as much nerve as style.
These were small incidences - considering what was to follow: Gunn's build up of B and C into the biggest finance house in London, and then its resounding crash in June 1990, when its failed subsidiary, Atlantic Computers, exposed the group's Achilles' heel. Even more extraordinary was the heroic escape of the Cayzer family.