In his last public appearance as the head of investment banking at Barclays, Rich Ricci thanked clients who have stuck by the bank in the aftermath of the Libor scandal by inviting them to a performance of the wonderful Conor McPherson play, The Weir, at the Donmar Warehouse in Londons Covent Garden.
Set in an Irish country bar, where the regular male patrons, led by actor Brian Cox, tell ghost stories to a newly arrived Dublin woman before she flattens them with a truly sorrowful tale of her own, the play was sold out to members of the tiny theatre even before it went on public sale. Barclays took the whole theatre for the evening and Ricci joked with the audience before the curtain about the pressures of the job, making a playful grab for the booze behind the bar. An exuberant Crispin Odey, the hedge fund manager who famously made a fortune shorting bank stocks in the run-up to the crisis, proposed three cheers from his seat. "Yeah, thanks," Ricci said, before explaining for the benefit of the rest, "Crispin owns a lot of Barclays shares."
Will shareholders miss Ricci, the last of the Bob Diamond team that built the investment banking division that drives Barclays earnings? He will certainly be missed at the Donmar, where artistic director Josie Rourke thanked him not just for the banks seven-year sponsorship, but for other initiatives behind the scenes attracting little attention: a training programme for aspiring young actors and theatre technicians; provision of a new rehearsal space. "These things are not flashy. Barclays did not have to do them and they were Barclays idea," Rourke said.
There has been an abundance of plays about bankers greed. Its interesting, then, to hear Rourke speak so warmly. The Weir ends on June 9. Ordinary punters have two chances to get a ticket: queue on the day to stand at the back, or go online on a Monday morning and try to get a seat on the front row. You can get only two per run and they cost £10: sponsored by Barclays.