The late Connie Middleton.

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Connie was known to all of us who worked at Phillips in the 1980s and 1990s as the ultimate business getter.

Immaculately dressed and coiffured, highly professional and a formidable negotiator, Connie closed the deal on a remarkably wide and varied number of consignments.

In 1984, for example, James James-Crook and Connie agreed with the owners of The Queens Hotel in Penzance that Phillips would auction their outstanding collection of 42 Modern British paintings which went on to sell out at £242,000 (including four world records).

In 1991 she worked alongside Paul Viney to secure the contract for Phillips to sell the considerable office contents acquired by Asil Nadir, the former chairman of Polly Peck – which ultimately fetched £4million.

Resolve and fortitude

Her arrival at Phillips was itself a story of singular resolve and fortitude.

She was formerly married to Trevor Owen, a family solicitor, and lived in Formby, Lancashire, bringing up three young children.

In 1980 Trevor died suddenly and Connie realised that she had to reinvent herself very quickly in order to provide a living for herself and her family.

She travelled down to London where she managed to secure an interview with Christopher Weston, Phillips’ mercurial chairman.

She was appointed as representative for the north-west region and was subsequently asked to run the new business development department in Bond Street, a role for which she quickly proved herself to be more than capable.

Part of Connie’s job specification was to build relationships with the company’s diverse branch network in the UK and overseas – no easy matter – and it was on one of these trips abroad that I first really got to know her.

Down to earth and tremendously good company, she quickly became a close and valued friend and after I left Phillips in 1999 this friendship became even closer as our respective lives and careers veered off into other directions.

If there was one thing for which Connie was known it was her unfailing ability to make friends with influential and powerful people in the world of politics, the City and the arts.

In 1990 she married Sir Peter Middleton, then permanent secretary to the Treasury and later chairman of Barclays Bank.

This became the gateway to a new and exciting time in her life, travelling with Peter on business trips and holidays all over the world – but never losing her innate sparkle, charm and irresistible sense of fun.

Proud of family

Her family was always the most important thing in her life; all three of her children grew up to have remarkable careers of their own and she was never prouder than when she spoke about their achievements and those of her adored grandchildren.

It was a privilege to have known such an extraordinary and life-enhancing person. Connie will be greatly missed by all who were lucky enough to have met and known her.

From John Benjamin