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The corridors of power...

I've always felt a little sorry for John Gunn. He was one of those larger-than-life eighties figures who went from hero to zero when British & Commonwealth, the financial services business of which he was chief executive, folded in the summer of 1990.

B&C was the first big casualty of the economic slump that was to claim the scalps of Asil Nadir and Robert Maxwell.

Gunn bit off more than he could chew in 1988 when B&C paid £410 million for leasing company Atlantic Computers. It transpired that Atlantic had a black hole in its accounts, and B&C’s profits had been falsely inflated.

Gunn defeated a long-running attempt by the DTI to disqualify him as a director. A judge found ‘no culpability’ in his conduct.

That was in 1998. Since then, Gunn, 62, has quietly set about crafting a business portfolio built around his family company, Scheidegg, specialising in venture capital for high-growth, early-stage enterprises.

He is director of a number of quoted and unquoted companies, primarily in the engineering and high tech sectors. He was a founding investor in Ceres Power, a fuel cell developer. His latest venture is private corporate finance house Ludgate Investments.

Gunn’s quiet comeback can be contrasted with that of John Ashcroft, former chairman of wallpaper company Coloroll, which also collapsed under a dead weight of debt.

He resurfaced in 1997 with a PhD in economics from Manchester University. He suffered further setbacks with Survival Group, an outdoor leisure business that went bust, but is still in business with something called Crabtree Consultancy.

Who’s Who lists his interests as fine art, opera, sports and wine, so things can’t be that bad.

Perhaps Ashcroft and Gunn should form some sort of eighties survivors’ club.

Jon Ashworth is business features editor at The Times.

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