Former treasurer of Northern Rock found dead at home after ‘drinking himself to death’ over bank’s collapse
The former treasurer of Northern Rock has been found dead at his home after spiralling into depression over his role in the bank’s collapse.
Keith Currie, 56, stepped down just two months after the bank went bust in 2007 and later retired with a reported £2.5m payout.
Friends say he was haunted by the bank’s collapse and could not forgive himself for failing to ensure the business had enough financing to survive.
He became a recluse and began drinking heavily, which contributed to the collapse of his marriage earlier this year.
Police today confirmed the father-of-one had been found dead at his home in Newcastle at around 3pm on Sunday. He had an empty bottle of booze by his side, according to pals.
A close friend, who asked not to be named, said Mr Currie felt “terrible” about ordinary people losing their money.
He said “He was a very charitable chap. He was just a really nice, very happy-go-lucky sort of guy.
“When Northern Rock went down he became quite reclusive. He did not go out. He was a guy with a conscience.
“He felt terrible about customers and shareholders losing their money. He felt like it was down to him.
“The shareholders were happy with what Northern Rock was doing when they were making them lots of money, but as soon as trouble began the share holders said it was too risky and they should not have been doing it.
“He went from hero to zero.
“It is a troubling thing. He was very human, he had good moral values – so much it cost him his life.
“He felt dreadful and started drinking very heavily. He started to fall into depression.
“His marriage broke up earlier this year. The drink is what cost him his marriage.
“I heard he was found dead in his house with an empty bottle next to him. We’re all worried he basically drank himself to death.
“He had everything going for him. He was a nice bloke, with a good sense of humour. But he just could not see past this great big black pit.
“It is easy for us to see that he was a success, but people in deep depression cannot see anything.
“I last saw him in May. I kept hearing reports from his friends that he was getting worse. He tried to help himself and his friends tried to help him too.
“But I think with alcohol it is like a train that you are on and you have to get off as early as possible or it takes you into a dark tunnel.
“From what I understand one of his friends was trying to get hold of him and that is when they realised something was wrong.
“It is so tragic. All of his friends are devastated. We all knew he was poorly and had problems and he was trying to get through it.”
A spokesman for Northumbria Police said: “At 3.12pm Northumbria Police received a report from the ambulance service of a man found dead at his house on Lindisfarne road in Jesmond.
“The man was in his 50s. The coroner has been informed.”
Northumbria Police and Newcastle Coroner’s office both yesterday (Mon)
confirmed the name of the deceased found at Mr Currie’s home address.
Mr Currie’s family saw the coroner today while a post mortem was expected to take place on tomorrow.
Mr Currie is understood to have broken up from his wife Fiona Currie, 52, earlier this year after ten years of marriage. He is known to have previously been married and has one son, Angus, 19.
A spokesman for Virgin Money, which bough Northern Rock, said: “We are very sad to hear the news of Keith’s passing.”
Northern Rock was caught up in the US sub-prime lending crisis and was forced to apply to the Bank of England for emergency financial support in September 2007.
Worried savers queued up around the bank’s 76 branches to withdraw savings – totalling up to £2.5bn – causing the share price to plunge by 30 per cent.
On September 17, 2007 the then Chancellor Alistair Darling stepped in and guaranteed all Northern Rock deposits in a bid to restore confidence in the bank.
Northern Rock executives appeared before a Parliamentary committee into the crisis October 16, 2007 and three days later chairman Matt Ridley resigned.
On November 17, 2007 the chief executive Adam Applegarth resigned along with board directors David Baker, Keith Currie and Andy Kuipers who stood down but remained as officers.
The Chancellor announced on February 17, 2008 that Northern Rock would be taken into public ownership.
The bank was later split in two with the “good” bank being sold to Virgin Money for £747m on November 17, 2011.
It is estimated the sale saw taxpayers with a “paper” loss of between £400m and ££650m.
Mr Currie was appointed treasury manager of Northern Rock in January 2005 and played a key role in ensuring the bank had enough financing.
But just a month after Northern Rock crashed in September 2007 Mr Currie was notably absent from work for two weeks citing stress.
He stepped down as a board director in November 2007 and took early retirement in January 2008 – after pocketing a reported £2.5m in bonus pay-outs.
Northern Rock’s shares collapsed after it was forced to seek emergency funding from the Bank of England.
Concerned customers rushed to withdraw their money and the share price plunged 30 per cent.
Mr Currie was criticised along with other executives for selling £1,106,27 of shares in the bank months before its financial crisis.
A 2009 Channel 4 Dispatches investigation into banking chiefs’ bonuses found Mr Currie had received payments totalling £2.5m.