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King of Supply-Chain Finance Expands, and Controversy Follows

Lex Greensill arranges loans that speed up business payments. That’s riskier than it sounds.

Lex Greensill, CEO of Greensill Capital.

Lex Greensill, CEO of Greensill Capital.

Photographer: Ian Tuttle

Lex Greensill rose from working on his family’s melon and sugar cane farm in Australia to roaming the skies in a private jet. The ascent has been far from smooth.

His London-based Greensill Capital has revamped the humdrum business of supply-chain finance, a kind of lending that speeds up payments between companies. The 44-year-old financier says the firm provided $150 billion to businesses and customers in 175 countries last year. But some view him as an aggressive risk taker who’s often pushing the boundaries in an area of finance less regulated than traditional banking. Now he’s considering a new round of fundraising that would value his company at about $7 billion and his stake at more than $1.5 billion. That’s just a steppingstone to his ultimate aim: going public and rivaling the world’s biggest financial firms as a short-term lender.