Salvesen tycoon Sir Gerald leaves £7m in will

A SHIPPING tycoon who was linked to the start of the Falklands War left a £7 million fortune.

Friday, 14th September 2018, 8:34 pm
Updated Friday, 14th September 2018, 8:41 pm
Sir Gerald Elliot.
Sir Gerald Elliot.

Sir Gerald Elliot signed a deal with an Argentine scrap merchant to have machinery removed from some disused whaling stations on South Georgia.

He was managing director, and later chairman, of the Edinburgh shipping company Christian Salvesen when he struck the deal with Constantino Davidoff.

Davidoff arrived in the British territory with the Argentine Navy and marines and the Argentine flag was raised days later sparking the 1982 conflict.

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Elliot died in Edinburgh in January this year, aged 94.

His recently published will revealed that he had an estate valued at £7,297,733 at the time of his death.

The bulk of his wealth was made up of a large stocks and shares portfolio. He also had furniture and personal effects worth £100,000.

He instructed that his estate should be left to his wife and his three children.

The third of five children of a Royal Navy surgeon captain, Elliot served from 1942 for four years with the 13th Frontier Force Rifles in India, having chosen to join the Indian Army in the footsteps of his father’s brother, an army doctor.

Elliot studied Urdu on the ship to India, and while stationed at Abbottabad reached First Class interpreter standard. He was selected for intelligence work, cracking codes and learning Japanese, but when invited also to learn Persian, asked not to continue and later said: “I preferred the command of soldiers to intelligence work.”

He joined his family firm Christian Salvesen in 1948 and began as the chairman’s “bag-carrier” – minder of a large leather trunk that contained the company’s papers on journeys across the globe.

The Salvesen empire, founded in shipping, thrived in the whaling industry following the Second World War.

Under Elliot’s own chairmanship Salvesen became Scotland’s largest private company, and was floated on the stock market in 1985.

It would be 20 years before Elliot spoke publicly of the events involving his company that led to the sending of the Task Force and Britain’s victory, and put the name of Christian Salvesen forever in the British official history of the Falklands War.

He said Davidoff was an “innocent party” in the affair, a view also taken at the time by the British Foreign Office.

He added: “He was given three years to remove it. It was quite difficult for him to find transport to get him there. There are no regular ships going down there, it’s the end of the world. He got pretty desperate so he went to the Argentine government.

“We did not want our minor tidying operation to cause trouble.”

Elliot was knighted in 1986 and retired two years later.

He founded, in 1985, with the economist Sir Alan Peacock, a “think tank”, the David Hume Institute, and was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

He was Chairman of Scottish Opera from 1987-92, and a noted patron of Scotland’s arts. In 2012, with Lady Elliot, he was awarded the Prince of Wales Medal for Arts Philanthropy.