An old school visionary

Hugh McCoy, who died earlier this month, was not just one of the best sale and purchase brokers of his generation, but also an architect of Clarksons’ global expansion writes Tim Huxley.

It was in early 1983 that Hugh McCoy rejoined Clarksons from Cleaves Shipbrokers. Clarksons had recently been hit by the departure of six senior sale and purchase brokers who had left to set up Braemar, so McCoy’s recruitment was seen as a statement of intent that Clarksons was going to remain at the forefront of the London broking scene. His return was a shot in the arm for the Clarkson brokers who had worked with him during his earlier time there before he had left to join John O’Keefe at Cleaves, but it was also a huge opportunity for a group of youngsters as McCoy set about building the next generation of Clarksons brokers.

McCoy was known to be a tough taskmaster and didn’t suffer fools gladly, but he led by example and was a prolific broker throughout his career, his roster of clients comprising many of the household names in global shipping. He always insisted that trainees write a weekly market report and they would then be summoned to discuss it with him. Those could be intimidating meetings but were invaluable in learning how to interpret and communicate what was going on – areas where Hugh excelled.

Soon after he returned to Clarksons, he overhauled the graduate trainee scheme and by the mid-1980s, Clarksons had a young, confident team of shipbrokers who McCoy empowered to go out and chase after new business. I recall as a young broker calling him late one night and asking if it was alright with him, I wanted to go to New Zealand at the weekend as I reckoned I could land a big piece of business there. His reply was a simple “OK – don’t lose it.”

Hugh was a proud member of the Worshipful Company of Shipwrights and his chairmanship of both the Baltic Exchange and the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers were a particular source of pride. His vision for Clarksons, however, went way beyond the confines of the City of London. Realising the need to ensure that Clarksons should provide the best possible research and analysis, he recruited Martin Stopford to develop Clarksons Research into the world leading force it is today. In 1987 he initiated the purchase of Victoria Shipbrokers in Hong Kong and was an enthusiastic promoter of the company’s growth in both China and Singapore, where today Clarksons is amongst the leading players. Throughout this expansion, he ensured that Clarksons’ core values were represented by regularly posting staff from London to the overseas offices, many of whom stayed way beyond their original planned secondment and went on to build their careers overseas.

Always immaculately attired and with a penchant for bespoke tailoring and fine wine, Hugh was great company whether it be hosting Clarkson’s bi-annual mega party at Posidonia or over informal drinks in any of the multitude of places his travels took him. After retiring from Clarksons in 1998, he remained closely linked with the shipping industry as chairman of Hadley Shipping and as a director number of other shipping related companies. In addition, he was able to indulge his passion for sailing as well as charitable work with his local Citizen’s Advice Bureau and together with his wife Margaret as a patron of Dr.Barnardo’s Homes.

Having started his career as a seafarer with BP, Hugh McCoy rose to the very top of the shipbroking profession, inspiring a generation of young shipbrokers along the way and providing an example for generations to come. A true Maritime CEO.


Photo: Baltic Exchange


  1. In early 1987 I had just been given the “fleet development” job at a Hong Kong owner, and as a “new broom” I wanted to ginger things up. I felt that my employers’ existing brokers had gone to sleep on us. I wanted a better broking house and I remember visiting London to look for one, early in 1987. One of Hugh’s keen young graduates tried very hard to inveigle me into a complete and utter dog of a handymax. I didn’t waste time passing the proposal up to my elders and betters but I was impressed by the professionalism and selected Clarksons. Good decision.

    I always thought that Hugh was a dangerous man to be around, though, as he might sell you something. Hugh reminded me of the story of a Liverpool owner who was seen on the Pier Head, around 1910, looking miserable – “What’s wrong?” asked a friend – “Pirrie (head of Harland and Wolff and another legendary ship salesman) has just sold me a ship, and I have no idea what I can do with it!” came the reply. Hugh was certainly in that league and he was in it “24/7” as we now say. A great man who will be much missed.

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