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During the 1970s, though many British businesses fell apart in the wake of the OPEC crisis, the merchant bank Lazard Freres & Co. escaped relatively unscathed.

Lord Cowdray, the chairman of the holding company which owned the bank, once asked its chairman, Lord Poole, how he had managed to avoid extending loans to firms which were now failing, particularly when many more conservative banks had not. "Quite simple," Poole replied. "I only lent money to people who had been to Eton."

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