Public floatation

Keswick family

The Keswick family (pronounced with a silent 'w', "Kezzick") are a business dynasty of Scottish origin associated with the Far East since 1855 and in particular the conglomerate Jardine Matheson.

As tai-pans of Jardine Matheson & Co, the Keswick family have at some time been closely associated with the ownership or management of the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, the Indo-China Steam Navigation Co. Ltd., the Canton Insurance Office Ltd, (now the Lombard Insurance Co), the Hong Kong & Kowloon Wharf and Godown Co Ltd, Star Ferry , Hong Kong Tramway, the Hong Kong Land Investment and Agency Co Ltd, and the Hongkong and Whampoa Dock Co Ltd.

1st Generation

The Hon. William Keswick (1835-1912)

William Keswick, founder of the dynasty, was born on January 1, 1835 (some sources say 1834), in the Scottish Lowlands. His grandmother, Margaret Jardine Johnstone was a sister of Dr. William Jardine, the founder of Jardine's. His father Thomas Keswick, from Dumfriesshire had married Jardine's niece and entered the Jardine business. The company operated as merchant traders and had a major influence in the opium wars although the company stopped this trading in 1870 to pursue a broad range of trades including shipping, railways, textiles and property development.

William arrived in China and Hong Kong in 1855, the first of five generations of the Keswick family to be associated with Jardine's. He established a Jardine Matheson office in Yokohama, Japan in 1859. He returned to Hong Kong to become a partner of the firm in 1862. He left Hong Kong in 1886 to take control of Matheson & Co. in London.

He spent three spells on the Legislative and Executive Councils of Hong Kong between 1868 and 1887.

The Hon. James Johnstone Keswick

J.J. Keswick, younger brother of William, arrived in the Far East in 1870 and remained for 26 years, mostly based in Hong Kong. Like his brother, he was a Member of the Legislative Council and of the Chamber of Commerce in five spells between 1890 to 1900. He founded Hongkong Land, a development company established in 1889 which remained closely associated with Jardine Matheson.

Henry Keswick

Another brother was based in Calcutta, where he headed Jardine Skinner's.

2nd Generation

Henry Keswick

Son of William Keswick, Henry Keswick arrived in Hong Kong in 1895 the year before his Uncle James left. He had previously spent two years in the New York office of Jardine's.

The first gap in the long line of continuous association with Hong Kong occurred when he returned home to represent Hong Kong at the coronation of King George V. He did return to Hong Kong and the Far East in his yacht "Cutty Sark" in 1922. He remained a Director of Jardines until 1924.

3rd Generation

The next family members to be associated with Hong Kong and Shanghai were Henry's sons "Tony" and John Keswick. As well as being directors of Jardines they served as members of the Legislative and Executive Councils in Hong Kong and of the Council of the International Settlement in Shanghai. They were also Chairmen of the Shanghai Municipal Council and Chamber of Commerce at various times. When William and his father Henry Keswick returned to the United Kingdom they both served as Members of Parliament with responsibility for Far Eastern interests.

Sir William Johnstone "Tony" Keswick

"Tony" Keswick arrived in the far east in 1926. He and his brother remained Directors of the firm after they had left the Far East. He was in charge of the Shanghai office (at that time the Head Office in the Far East) from 1935 until 1941. He was also Chairman of the Shanghai Municipal Council during the crises leading to the Pacific War. He was shot in the arm by a Japanese at a Municipal Election Meeting held on the Shanghai Racecourse in 1941. The company's chinese business interests were looted by occupying Japanese forces.

After the war he took over as Managing Director of Matheson & Co. Ltd, in London. Amongst his other business activities, he was Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company, Director of the Bank of England, Vice-Chairman of Alliance Assurance, and Director of British Petroleum.

Sir John "the younger" Keswick (1906-1982)

John followed his brother to the far east in 1929, and replaced him in Shanghai after the shooting incident. He fled the city when the Japanese took the city. He escaped to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and served during the war with Admiral Earl Mountbatten's staff.

John Keswick returned to Shanghai after the war to organize in the rebuilding of Jardine's office and to reestablish the firm's trading links throughout China and Asia. In 1949, after the communist party's takeover of China. Jardine's head office was moved to Hong Kong. Despite attempting to work with the communists business conditions became worse operations were closed in 1954 with the effective nationalisation of the companies interests and a $20m loss.

John Keswick became a member of the Hong Kong Executive Council in 1952. He retired as Tai-pan in 1953 and joined Matheson & Co in 1956. He returned temporarily as non-executive Chairman of Jardine Matheson in Hong Kong in 1970 to 1972. While in England he and his brother financed the buy-out and then public floatation of Jardine Matheson.

4th Generation

Henry Keswick

Tony Keswick's son, Young Henry, born 1938 as Henry Neville Lindley Keswick, joined Jardine's in 1961 and was assigned to the firm's offices in Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia. He was made a Director in 1967, Senior Managing Director in 1970 and Chairman in 1972. He retired as Senior Managing Director and Chairman in 1975. He returned to London and is the current charman of Jardine Matheson Holdings.

Sir John Chips Keswick

Sir John Chips Keswick, born 1940, wasn't associated with Jardine Matheson but was associated with a London merchant bank, Hambros.

Simon Keswick

Young Henry's youngest brother, Simon, also joined the firm in 1962 and a Director in 1972 but left Jardine's in 1977 to join his brother at Matheson & Co. He returned to join Jardine's again in 1983 as Senior Managing Director and then Chairman after his father managed to remove the former managing director David Newbigging. Simon Keswick started the restructuring of the company becoming more international rather than tied to Hong Kong.

Mr. Simon Keswick retired as Tai-pan in 1988 after seeing the firm's holding office redomiciled to Bermuda and restructuring the firm's senior management organization.

5th Generation

The family still owns considerable holdings in the company with a 5th generation actively working within the company.

Ben Keswick

Mr Ben Keswick, son of Simon, joined the Board in April 2007. He is group managing director of Jardine Cycle & Carriage. He joined the Group in 1998 and held positions in Dairy Farm and Hongkong Land before taking an MBA at INSEAD. In 2003, he was appointed finance director of Jardine Pacific, and was its chief executive officer from 2005 to 2007. Mr Keswick is a director of Jardine Matheson Limited, Cycle & Carriage Bintang and MCL Land; and a commissioner of Astra and United Tractors.

Adam Keswick

Mr Adam Keswick,(born 1973) son of Chips, joined the Board in April 2007. He is chief executive of Jardine Pacific and of Jardine Motors. After joining the Group in 2001 from N M Rothschild & Sons, he held positions within Group Treasury and Jardine Pacific. Mr Keswick was appointed group strategy director of Jardine Cycle & Carriage in 2003, and was group managing director from 2005 to 2007. He is also a director of Jardine Matheson Limited.

See also


  • 'William Keswick, 1835-1912: Jardine's Pioneer in Japan' by J.E. Hoare, Chapter 10, Britain & Japan: Biographical Portraits ISBN 1-903350-14-X

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