Godlike: Due to his relentless charitable work John Studzinski is a Papal Knight
He’s the fabulously wealthy dealmaker with the gilded existence who very much does do God.
He’s on close terms with the Prince of Wales, has prime ministers on his WhatsApp and, for all we know, a direct line to the Pope Francis’s modest appartamento.
Due to his relentless charitable work he is a Papal Knight, holds a CBE and graces more boards than Tom Daley. As a redoubtable hostess might remark when introducing her prized guest: ‘Do you know John Studzinski?’
‘Studz’ as he is known among his eclectic milieu is investment banking’s megastar. During a 38-year career he has had spells at Morgan Stanley, HSBC and Blackstone.
This week, he announced he was joining American investment giant Pimco, meaning his frenetic NY-LON existence will now also encompass Newport Beach, California.
His interests, however, extend way beyond his Bloomberg terminal.
Devout Studz’s is one of life’s do-gooders. He still finds time to volunteer in homeless shelters and reckons he gives away half his annual earnings to good causes.
His aptitude for social networking is unparalleled. Conversations often start: ‘As I was saying to David Cameron’ or ‘when I worked with Mother Teresa’.
Charming and popular – at the last count he had no fewer than 39 godchildren – he is also something of Gatbsyesque figure.
For all his largesse, Studz remains intensely private and rarely grants interviews. He has never married. Born in the working class neighbourhood of Peabody, Massachusetts, Studz’s parents were Polish immigrants. His old man was financial manager at General Electric Co’s aircraft-engine division and instilled in his son a Stakhanovite work ethic. During his spare time, young Studz was expected either to study or do something constructive. His social conscience was stirred at an early age. At six he was helping out in soup kitchens. When he was 14 he set up a telephone helpline for people with venereal diseases.
After gaining an MBA from Chicago University in 1980, he joined Morgan Stanley in New York. Four years later he was dispatched to London to develop its mergers-and-acquisitions division. After rising to become head of the bank’s European banking arm, he was chauffeured around in a limo big enough to accommodate his three dogs.
Studz became an ardent Anglophile. It’s our history and our decency, he says. He has donated as much as £10m to the Tate Modern and even greater sums nurturing and supporting developing artists through his charity the Genesis Foundation. Over the years, his Bostonian accent has steadily given way to cut-glass vowels. In 2003, Sir John Bond lured him to HSBC to create its investment banking division. This was the heady, boom-time era before the crash. At one point, he was earning as much as £13m a year. He moved to Blackstone three years later and when the credit crunch hit, Studz was placed in charge of restructuring tottering US insurer AIG.
Home in London is a lavish £22m mansion in Chelsea which has its own chapel. There are some candlesticks in there which belonged to St Ignatius Loyola. An extensive art collection includes Man Ray and Picasso. His left pinky is adorned with a sixth-century filigree gold ring previously worn by two Popes.
He developed his religious fervour not long after he came to London. While being driven to a dinner in Germany, his car became involved in a pile-up, killing his driver as well as six others. Studz lost a lung. He’s not afraid to indulge himself from time to time. When he turned 60 he threw a three-day extravaganza at Venice’s Gritti Palace.
Mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato serenaded the host with a rendition of Somewhere Over The Rainbow.
Yes, life has been good to old Studz, but unlike many of his contemporaries in the banking world, he seems determined to give something back.
‘To whom much has been given, much is expected,’ he likes to say. Amen to that.