The Master oversees the Company’s activities, as well as representing us at a variety of charity, trade, ceremonial and social events. He or she’s usually a long-serving Tallow Chandler.
Each Master serves for one year. The Master’s election has to take place on or within twenty days of the Feast of St. John the Baptist, reflecting our ancient links with the Brotherhood of St John. We usually hold the election on the first Tuesday in July.
Nicholas, born in 1952, lives in Wandsworth, London with his wife Katusha. They have one son, Felix, who has just graduated from Bristol University.
His uncle, Martin Burch (depicted in the Cuneo portrait in the Court Room) was first warden of the Tallow Chandlers in 1978 but died before he could become Master; and Nicholas’ cousins Dr Tony Burch (Court Assistant) and Revd Christopher Burch (Freeman) are both members of the Company. Liveryman Thomas Kelen is married to their sister Rosemary Burch.
Aged 8, Nicholas went away to prep school at Ashdown House where he was head boy followed by Eton where he was head of house. After a gap year spent studying art in Venice and traveling the Eastern Mediterranean he went to Exeter University where he just obtained a degree in Chemistry, having spent most of his time there rowing.
He became an Articled Clerk with City chartered accountants, Spicer & Pegler, where he manoeuvred himself onto an audit in Marlow, which enabled him to row for Leander Club. His Leander Vlll was selected in 1975 to represent England in the Home International Rowing Championships, which they won. After giving up competitive rowing he tried his hand at hot air ballooning and took part in the 1977 World Ballooning Championships as crew for the Persian balloon (which came last).
On qualifying, he joined merchant bank Morgan Grenfell doing mergers and acquisitions and capital raisings for UK companies and was sent in 1986 to Sydney for three years to run their operations in Australia and New Zealand. Whilst managing the business through the 1987 stock market crash he still managed to indulge his love of wine by visiting a fair number of the vineyards there.
In Australia he met Katusha and they returned to London and married in 1989. Four years (and a son) later they relocated to Asia spending a year in Singapore and two years in Hong Kong. By then Morgan Grenfell had been bought by Deutsche Bank and after four years back in London with Deutsche, Nicholas moved to Societe Generale and then to ABNAMRO. In 2007 ABNAMRO was bought by RBS and Nicholas left banking after 30 years.
He acquired a portfolio of directorships balanced by a number of pro bono roles. He became chairman of investor relations business, Smith’s Corporate Advisory, and a director of investment trust, Fidelity China Special Situations; and following the financial crash was appointed to the board of hotels group, De Vere, which he chaired from 2011, to run an orderly disposal process to repay the group’s bank debt, which concluded earlier this year. He is now the Senior Independent Director of global yarn and thread company Coats Group plc.
Alongside that he is a Trustee of the Design Museum with which he has been closely involved for 25 years, since it opened by Tower Bridge, and is a member of the team raising the funds to move the museum to the Commonwealth Institute building in High Street Kensington where it is scheduled to reopen in 2016.
In 2011 he was appointed to the Council of Exeter University; and he chaired their first ever fund raising campaign, raising £25 million for new buildings on the campus. He now has responsibility on Council for Sport, where Exeter has risen to rank 6th amongst all UK universities; and chairs the university’s Audit Committee.
Nicholas joined the Tallow Chandlers’ Company in 1991 and when the Company bought its first rowing barge for over 200 years Nicholas was appointed Bargemaster. He subsequently became chairman of the City Bargemasters’ Council comprising all of the livery companies with barges, which he retired from earlier this year after ten years. His proudest achievement was to reintroduce a river element to the annual Lord Mayor’s Show as the new Lord Mayor is now rowed from Westminster to Tower Bridge first thing on the morning of the Lord Mayor’s Show accompanied by the fleet of livery company barges. He was also a director of the Great River Race for seven years and rowed in the race last year in the Company’s boat, The Dove.
On becoming a Court Assistant in 2007, he initiated the 550th anniversary fundraising campaign, which raised £1,100,000 for the Company’s Benevolent Fund and has enabled the Company to increase significantly its support of education. He is an Associate Governor of Greig’s City Academy and is the Company’s link with the charity, INTO University.
Katusha was born and brought up in Hong Kong and then moved to Australia to train and practice as a nurse. She subsequently became the first female qualified ski patroller in Australia (followed thirty years later by their son Felix) and a ski instructor. On coming to live in London she realized a long held ambition and attended Art School first for portrait painting and then for portrait sculpture. She now sculpts in stone and exhibits regularly in the UK as Katusha Ostroumoff Bull ARBS MSDC. Her sculptures are in collections all over the world.
As keen skiers, Nicholas and Katusha have a holiday home in Vail, Colorado where they ski every year. Nicholas also used to race toboggans on the Cresta Run in St Moritz but retired from that after breaking his neck skiing in Vail ten years ago (although that hasn’t stopped him skiing). As keen golfers they also visit Vail in summer, remembering to adjust club selection for the thinner air at 8,000 feet.
Nicholas is delighted to have been elected Master and he and Katusha look forward to representing the Company in the coming year.