My uncle Eben Hamilton, who has died aged 83, was one of the leading insolvency lawyers of his time. His expertise led him to be commissioned by the UK government to investigate the collapse of the British technology company Atlantic Computers, which folded in 1990 with more than £550m in debt and the loss of 1,400 jobs, bringing down with it the financial services firm British and Commonwealth Holdings, its parent company.
Eben’s report on the matter, produced in conjunction with the accountant James Alexander Scott and described by the Independent newspaper as “a pearl”, found that Atlantic had misrepresented its liabilities, and led to the disqualification of three of its former directors.
Born in Edinburgh to Lilias Maclay, a doctor, and the Rev John Hamilton, a minister in the Church of Scotland, Eben went to Winchester college, in Hampshire. He did national service in the 4th/7th Dragoon Guards (1955-57), during which time he greatly enjoyed crashing his tank around the German countryside, before reading law at Trinity College, Cambridge (1957-60).
He was called to the bar in 1962 and took silk in 1981, specialising in insolvency. For many years he also practised in Hong Kong, where he built up a significant practice in the 1980s and 90s. In 1992 he became head of chambers of 1 New Square in London and successfully engineered its merger with 12 New Square in 2000. He was a highly regarded pupil master, his pupils including Maria Yuen, now a judge of the court of final appeal in Hong Kong.
Eben had a rare ability to think outside the box, and a warm collegiality that extended to sitting down and having a civilised whisky with even the fiercest opposition. His good humour allowed members of his team to relax, and he was always highly supportive of colleagues. Geoffrey Ma, a former chief justice of Hong Kong, described him as “one of the truest gentlemen I have ever had the pleasure of meeting”.
Eben met his wife, Themy Bilimoria, a Parsi from Bombay (now Mumbai), in 1955 when he was visiting friends in the city. They were married in 1985. Together they shared a love of art, India, Ireland and the theatre. They were wonderful hosts, entertaining regularly in London and Sussex and at their house on Lough Ree in the midlands of Ireland. Eben’s integrity, wit, gift for storytelling, generosity and interest in people from all walks of life resulted in a worldwide circle of friends.
He is survived by Themy, his sister, Josie, and four nephews and nieces.