Old Bedalian 1978

As Dorian Lowell remembers it, he was “pretty relaxed” about the prospect of becoming a Bedalian sixth-former. A former grammar school pupil at Dr. Challoner’s in Amersham, his parents had decided on something a little different for Dorian’s next two years and their final choice rested between Bedales and Gordonstoun. “I had done a lot of skiing and subsequently became a member of the Kandahar Ski Club but otherwise, I wasn’t really what you call the outdoor type,” he reflects. “To be sent to Bedales seemed like an interesting idea to me – I was happy enough at becoming a boarder and being away from home, Bedales was obviously co-ed, which I liked, and I thought that I’d have a good time.”

Despite arriving at Bedales in resolutely unfashionable shoes, Dorian was soon trying a bit of everything. “In some respects, it was quite a cliquey place at the time and I remember that the printing works, which was a legend in its own lifetime, was one of the leading groups at school at the time,” he says. “I wasn’t a member of that but I had a go at bell-ringing, enjoyed the art department and did a bit of theatre, acting in a few plays like Uncle Vanya. I was a little different in that my first group of friends weren’t so much from my own year but more a group of seventh-term Oxbridge people, headed by a very bright spark called Chris Cowell, who is now a director at Glyndebourne and the Royal Opera House.”

Life in Steep was not devoid of its little exotic adventures for Dorian who, in addition to sleeping out on the roof on some evenings, managed to get himself suspended for a lax interpretation of the school rules as they applied to alcohol. “A friend and I got caught by Dennis Archer as we emerged from a barn where we’d just hidden a bottle of vodka,” Dorian recalls with a laugh. “He asked us what we were doing and all I could think of as an answer was that we were out looking for fossils!”

Dorian’s relaxed attitude to life also extended to his academic pursuits, in which his A-Levels fell somewhat short of expectations.  “I don’t think that Bedales was an academic hothouse at the time but I ought to have done better,” he admits. “I got an A in English, thanks to John Batstone, but didn’t do at all well in French and Economics, which was rather embarrassing since my girlfriend at the time had come away with straight A’s. The upshot was that I re-took economics, got an A-1, and then took a job in a factory, which would enable me to learn how to fly. I had decided that I wanted to join the RAF but that got squashed because my eyesight wasn’t good enough and I also wasn’t keen on training to become a navigator, which was all that was left for me.”

Bedalians somehow seemed far more unconventional and unusual than the people I was meeting at university

 

Now at something of a loose end, Dorian applied to Oxford and, much to his surprise, was awarded a scholarship at Worcester College to study jurisprudence. He would graduate with first-class honours and reflects candidly on his university experiences: “In general, I found that my Oxford contemporaries were neither as interesting nor, often, as clever as those that I had found at Bedales. In some ways, my era might have been the theatrical high point at Bedales, which was stuffed with the children of renowned actors, directors and other cultural giants at the time. In any case, Bedalians somehow seemed far more unconventional and unusual than the people I was meeting at university.”

Bedales had also inspired in Dorian the desire and the ability to write fluently and well. “It’s been of vital importance in my working life ever since,” he observes. “I have a strong memory of an essay box in the library, which was full of work by Bedalians of the most extraordinary quality, far surpassing what you might expect to find among most people of that age. John Batstone taught me how to write properly and I must say that I’ve always been grateful for the grounding.”

Dorian began professional life as  a barrister at 3 Essex Court, specialising in international trade and shipping law, but a long-held hankering to see what America had to offer was about to be satisfied. “I went out one summer to do an internship at a firm in LA, enjoyed it and stopped my pupillage at the Bar in order to go to Harvard Law School instead,” he explains. It was the precursor to a seven-year stint as a corporate finance and restructuring lawyer with the New York giant Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton. “Clearys impressed me like no other institution,” Dorian continues. “It was a scarily intellectual place and a great firm at which to learn. One of the things I eventually learned, however, was that I didn’t want to do law on a long-term basis and I left initially to join a private family firm that was investing in the energy industry.”

As fate would have it, the Bedalian connection would rear its head again when Dorian took a phone call from an old school friend, Klaus Moeller: “Klaus invited me over to Los Angeles to help him set up a new web-site with a view to selling it to Amazon somewhere down the line. Genius Products, which was the name of the enterprise, was basically a site dealing with introducing children to various types of music and I went over to work on its operational restructuring and turnaround.”

Sadly, the year 2000 was at hand and the great dot.com boom was about to come to a juddering halt. “NASDAQ crashed and from one day to the next, investors stopped ringing us, which meant that it was time for me to head back to New York,” he remembers. “I networked my way into Houlihan Lokey as a banker specialising in financial restructuring and by 2004, I was being asked to go to London to establish a platform for the bank in the UK. I had bought an apartment in New York by then and my family were well established there so I agreed on the proviso that my stay in London would be strictly limited to a two-year term. When Houlihan wanted me to remain beyond that period, I resigned and joined a hedge fund, One East Partners.”

Bedales opened my eyes to a cross-section of society from England and elsewhere that I’d never have seen otherwise

 

As is the ironical way of the world, Dorian would end up back in London with One East as well but all such extraneous matters were obliterated by the global financial meltdown of 2008-09. “We’d reached a peak of over US$2 billion under management when the crisis hit and it was a worrying time,” he says. “To an extent, we were viewing matters from a distance but it was still incredibly scary to see Lehmans and Bear Stearns go under and watch how close AIG came to disaster. As far as One East was concerned, the redemptions were pretty severe and it was obviously time for me to move on again.”

Gleacher Shacklock, a privately-owned, London-based investment bank was to be Dorian’s destination, where he remains today as Head of Financial Restructuring. He is an international mixture these days, as he’s quick to agree: “It’s hard to say that I feel strongly that I’m any one thing; we keep a flat in New York, although we’re living in London, and my son intends to apply to US colleges when it comes to university, so there is clearly a major streak of America in our family. On the other hand, I’m married to a Japanese girl and my mother lives in France; perhaps mid-Atlantic might be the best way to describe me.”

Looking back across his life, Dorian is happy to concede that he has “gone with the flow” for most of it. “My Bedales self would certainly not have predicted what I’ve gone on to do,” he insists. “At the time, I guess that I took school with a pinch of salt but I’ve realised that Bedales opened my eyes to a cross-section of society from England and elsewhere that I’d never have seen otherwise, certainly not back in Amersham, and I’m glad that I saw it. By Bedales standards, I’m quite a staid sort of guy, really, but I’ve had an interesting career, been around the world and done some highly complex and rewarding work, so it’s difficult to have too many complaints about anything.”

Dorian Lowell was interviewed by James Fairweather in May 2016.