Obituary: Stuart Wheeler, founder of IG Group passes away, aged 85

Stuart Wheeler was a pioneer of the FX and CFD industry, his efforts resulting in forming large parts of today’s retail electronic trading world. We mourn his passing at the age of 85.

The FX and CFD industry is often considered one of the most modern and newly established sectors of the financial services industry.

In some respects, this is an accurate analogy, however the pioneering entities which brought to fruition the establishment of the retail electronic trading business are now well into their fifth decade.

For this reason, it is unsurprising that some of the initial leaders of the business, those whose innovative spirit lit the flame that burns today, are now beginning to depart.

It is with great sadness to report that yesterday we lost one of our pioneers, Stuart Wheeler, founder of IG Group.

Mr Wheeler passed away yesterday evening at his home, Chilham Castle, a classical manor house and keep in the village of Chilham, between Ashford and Canterbury in the county of Kent, England, after battling with stomach cancer for many years.

UKIP activist Mr Wheeler until he passed, lived at the castle with his three daughters, Sarah, Jacquetta, and Charlotte, his wife, the photographer Tessa Codrington died in 2016.

Mr Wheeler was adopted from birth by an American father and English mother. He was educated at Eton College, and completed his National Service with the Welsh Guards, before studying at Christ Church, Oxford, from where he graduated with a second-class degree in law.

He practised law as a barrister, before becoming an investment banker. However, Wheeler found his niche through IG Index, which pioneered spread betting. Originally, the company was launched to allow domestic market retail customers across the UK to speculate on gold, when FX controls at the time made it exorbitantly expensive to actually buy it.

A true leader and pioneer: Stuart Wheeler

Although a successful businessman, Mr Wheeler was not a well-known figure nationally until he donated £5 million to the Conservative Party during the 2001 election campaign. This was, and remains, the largest single donation ever made to a political party in the United Kingdom.

In January 2008, Wheeler brought an action against the government, represented by the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, and the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, over the government’s process of ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon.

The action sought to prevent the government from completing ratification of the treaty, on the grounds that it was illegal for a government to breach the public’s legitimate expectation of adherence to manifesto and other commitments.

The British government, along with the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, had pledged in their 2005 manifestos to hold a referendum on the European Constitution, which Wheeler held did not have “significant or material differences” from the Treaty of Lisbon. This action failed.

Wheeler was seen as belonging to the right wing of the Conservative Party.  He supported the British Conservative Party’s Liam Fox in the 2005 leadership contest, and switched his support to David Davis against David Cameron in the final run-off. He was initially critical of the leadership of David Cameron during its first few months.

On 28 March 2009, Wheeler donated £100,000 to the UK Independence Party (UKIP) after criticising David Cameron’s stance towards the Treaty of Lisbon and the European Union. He said, “If they kick me out I will understand. I will be very sorry about it but it won’t alter my stance.” The following day he was expelled from the Conservative Party.

In 2011, Mr Wheeler was appointed treasurer of UKIP to spearhead fundraising in advance of the 2014 European elections. His appointment was seen as a blow for the Conservatives because of his network of contacts. Party leader Nigel Farage said the move would enable the party to “raise serious money” as a lack of funds was “holding them back”.

Chilham Castle in 1981. The stately home is now the residence of the Wheeler family, and home to some of the world’s most recognized equestrian events

During his personal life, as well as his extensive career as a pioneer of spread betting, leading the world’s most famous and well established spread betting company IG Group to become the large, publicly listed powerhouse it is today is an accolade that Mr Wheeler could certainly be proud of.

A relatively private man, it was his successor as CEO of the company, Peter Hetherington, who was more widely recognized as the influencer and leader of the company (and who I personally have infinite time for – Ed), and the executive who took IG Group from its insular beginnings toward being the publicly listed giant it is today.

Mr Wheeler had a passion for trading, however, and was called an “obsessive” gambler by those who knew him personally, taking a keen interest in card and risk games and having played bridge with Lord Lucan on 6 November 1974, two days before his disappearance, and with Omar Sharif, as well as being a regular competitor in World Series of Poker championships.

At the launch of the Vote Leave campaign for Brexit in October 2015, Mr Wheeler was reported to be one of the new group’s three major donors, with CMC Markets founder and former Conservative Party Treasurer Peter Cruddas, and John Mills; the three men were appointed as joint co-treasurers, demonstrating Mr Wheeler’s affable personality and ability to work cohesively alongside founders of direct rival companies in the electronic trading sector.

Mr Wheeler can be regarded as a giant among electronic trading industry leaders. His legacy will live on, and after 46 years in business, IG Group’s sterling image, scale and unmistakable brand which is visible everywhere from the London Underground’s famous advertisements above the windows to traffic light signage in South Africa.

During recent times, Mr Wheeler battled with stomach cancer, diagnosed in June this year at which time doctors advised him that he had a maximum of six months to live.

We therefore wish Mr Wheeler’s family our sincere condolences as one of the innovative pioneers of our history moves on from this world, and can reflect on the tremendous mark he made during his illustrious life.

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