Life is just not going well for former HBOS chief executive James Crosby. Not only is he about to lose his knighthood and a third of his pension, but he can’t sell his Edinburgh flat, despite dropping the price by £50,000.


Crosby's flat, an estate agent's view


Now he looks to be willing to take a loss to get rid of it.

I first wrote about the penthouse flat at 56/5 Thistle Street – above the fish restaurant Fishers in the City – in October, when it was on market at £625,000. But six months on it is still unsold and agents Strutt & Parker are now trumpeting a “New Price” for the “stunning 3-bed city centre apartment” of offers over £575,000.

“56/5 Thistle Street is a stunning 3-bedroom apartment occupying the top floor of a traditional period terrace,” the estate agent’s blurb boasts. “In 2001 the building was converted from a former auction house by the renowned developers Sundial Properties. This apartment – which extends to 2316 square feet – occupies the entire top floor and benefits from lovely views over the Firth of Forth to Fife.”

The apartment is certainly spacious, but despite its three bedrooms, still has the air of a bachelor pad rather than a family home. That’s how Crosby used it, staying in it only for the odd night when he had to be in the nominal HBOS HQ on the Mound, but keeping his family home in Yorkshire, from where he continued to direct the bank.


The batchelor pad


Crosby bought the property jointly with Halifax, his then employer, in June 2001. The merger with Bank of Scotland had been discussed at that point, but not yet agreed. Crosby must either have been confident, or believed he had to be seen more in the Scottish capital to get the deal over the line.

The buying price was £496,000. In September 2007, the year after he suddenly left HBOS, Crosby and his wife paid £337,500 to buy out HBOS and take full ownership of the flat. Thus the Crosbys paid £585,500, a bargain at the time because the flat was valued at £675,000 and in the overheated Edinburgh property market of the time might have achieved a lot more had it been put on the market.

Timing is everything in property – as it is in banking. Sir James may have got his timing right in leaving HBOS and selling most of his shares before the crash, but he held on too long in the residential market. He is unlikely to get his money back.