Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Girls girls girls

I’m going to talk to you about women in business. Traditionally I’ve been against it. I know there are a few chicks around who’ve scaled the highest peaks of business, but they’re the exception not the rule. No, you’ve really got to be on top of your game to compete with the brilliant minds in the RC boardroom, where every meeting is a miniature war. And if you’re going to sod off for months on end to have babies, frankly you’re not going to cut the mustard.

There are a few top, top business birds. I met that Michelle Mone – need I say more? Great speaker and she talks about norks. Quality. Karren Brady’s also brilliant – you don’t get to work for a genius like David Sullivan without having something about you. Maggie was the best PM this country ever had, even if she had hairy legs, according to a mate who knows about these things.

These women have all made sacrifices, like me, which you have to do to reach the top. But saying that, you’ve got to offer chances to develop, because women can work wonders for you if put in the right positions (no not like that)

My old pal Dave Atherton – whatever happened to him by the way? Must look him up – once told me about two Dorises that worked for him at Dabs.com. They got right into the swing of things, if you will, and were so athletic in their endeavours they were christened “the exercise bikes”. Look it up. The politically correct brigade might not like it, but it’s just a bit of harmless banter that builds team spirit.

Another good mate, Lawrence Jones – best blogger around by the way – reckons much of his success at UKFast is down to employing large numbers of ladies. He reckons that in general they’re more practical and are better at decision-making. They also look much better in hotpants at all those techie trade shows, but that’s just a happy coincidence.

I’m coming round to this way of thinking and will be putting “girl power” at the forefront of my new venture RC Pop-ups. You know those temporary shops that pop up in shopping centres at certain times of year? Well when the world comes to realise in January that they’re all skint, my pop-up cash for gold stores will be popping up in all the pauper towns from Stoke to Carlisle.

When some loser in a shell-suit gets knocked back from a cashpoint and the brats are screaming for a Happy Meal, Roger’s Angels will be there to clean up, with a sympathetic smile. Happy days.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

The tarantula eyes have it

There’s a few punters getting their Fairtrade knickers in a twist over this lad AA Gill, he’s a food writer in the Times or something, but he also shot a baboon once. As you do. Not that I read it, I’m a Sunday Sport man myself – always have been, always will be. Ask ex-editor Tony “Tone” Livesey to tell you the one about Bridget the Midget, you’ll be in stitches.

Anyway, this Gill fellah did a review of Rosso. If you’ve not been, it’s at the top of King Street in Manchester and is an Italian restaurant owned by Rio “Rio” Ferdinand and my pal Mahmud Kamani. I reckon it’s brilliant, but he doesn’t.

He’s moaning about “girls strutting and pouting with tarantula eyes and Siamese breasts, showing off hooker frocks”. And? What’s the problem here? I thought this lad was supposed to be a red-blooded bloke, why else would he have a photo with a shooter and a 4x4 – maybe me and the lads should invite him up for a shooting weekend.

There’s form here as well. Him and Jeremy “Jezza” Clarkson (a good lad) did something a few years about how Alderley and Prestbury are full of clueless, snobbish nouveau riche. Utter tosh of course, black people have been allowed in both villages for years and some of the au pairs and tennis coaches come from countries even well-travelled guys like me have never heard of. It’s a cosmopolitan community. And don’t tell me we don’t do fine dining - the McDonalds in Wilmslow has been replaced by Strada.

Yes, we know what class is and we know how to enjoy ourselves. That’s handy as we’re now in the thick of the events season – barely a day goes by without some muppet law firm or gang of beancounters inviting us big hitters to a drinks reception somewhere.

What to accept and what to ignore? I go by a few golden rules – if there’s a decent VIP (Sir Alex, Michael Vaughan, Hitman Hatton etc) get along there and grab a photo for the website. Anything involving sick kids charities is always good as well, the marketing birds are usually top drawer and there’s loads of good guy points available by stumping up a couple of ton for a footy shirt. You’ll make the cash back on eBay, no sweat.

Here’s a tip – avoid the ones that say you’ll be treated to music from a string quartet. All it means is that it’ll be quiet, a cunning plan so that the partners can pick your brains on where the smart money’s going, before boring you rigid about the “multi-disciplinary services” they offer. Taxi, the Fantasy Bar and don’t spare the horses!

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Going for a double dip

We have no choice but to call it a day with our so-called turnaround fund, Uranus Capital.

Long story short, we haven’t been able to give the money away. Yet I’m still convinced the recession and the coming “double dip” will be the biggest opportunity in my adult lifetime to make money.

My reckoning when I started Uranus was that we were going to clean up. Credit crunch, banks being tough, recession. I mean how hard could it be? We’d find a few of the lads who’d had a tough time off the banks, stick a few dodgy parts of the business into admin – pay off the debt, or convert it into our debt, take a fee and a slice of the action, sit back and wait for things to get back to normal. Happy days.

In 2009 everyone was piling in. You couldn’t finish a round of golf at Mere without lads coming up and saying they were good for a cheeky half mill. First problem was the banks haven’t been as bad as we hoped. In the normal course of events they’d pile in with axes and chainsaws and get Begbies Traynor to mop up as best they could. This time they’ve got all these pointy heads from London doing Special Situations and all that nonsense. If you ask me, it’s just putting off the inevitable.

To be fair, we did get a couple of deals away, and a 2 per cent annual management fee still keeps the wolf from the door. We helped one of the lads we go shooting with, so he can still come shooting, but the poor lad's down to his last Range Rover. And we’ve got a stake in a coffee plantation in Costa Rica, which looks like a winner.

But the point of these funds is that we make the decisions, the investors sit back and thank us for the effort when the cheques roll in. Try telling that to this mob from Jersey who jumped in at the last minute. Maybe there’s something they put in the milk over there, but I’ve never come across mitherers like it. The annual report came back with red pen all over it, especially on the bit about our “management fee”. I mean, it’s not a charity you know, we don’t come cheap. They even called an EGM. The cheek of it.

In the end we decided to sack it off. It’s called “returning cash to shareholders”. I just don’t need grief like that – I get enough of it at home. So, while Uranus is now going to look at “opportunities on a deal-by-deal basis,” I’m thinking of a new fund to take advantage of the investments arising from the “double dip” around the corner. DD Assets – fancy some? Offshore tax dodgers need not apply.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Four Floors of Whores

My invite must have got lost in the post, but I spotted that the FIFA delegation were in Manchester and Liverpool measuring up our great cities for England’s World Cup bid.

It sounds like they played it safe with tours of Old Trafford, a few hotels, the safe tour of the airport (avoiding the Chav Airways departures), Man City’s council house, and some kiddies kicking balls about in Albert Square.

To be honest they all missed the point. I would have nudged the blazer brigade in the direction of good time central for when the circus is in town – the knocking shops, the lappy bars, the places to have a good session and a hotel with a discreet doorman that doesn’t tip off the paparazzi.

And to be fair, Liverpool always does alright on that score – it’s an exhausting night, but a tour of the top half dozen lap dancing bars – Six in the City, we call it – is always a winner. A proper class night out.

Manchester is sadly lacking in that particular part of the leisure sector and is in dire danger of missing out. It probably explains why it doesn’t rate in all these surveys of places people want to do business.

Luckily, me and a few of the lads have come up with a plan that might just rescue Manchester city centre from imminent decline.

For starters, the council needs to mark off a part of the city centre as a “party zone,” – they’ve done it with the Gay Village, why not a Straight Village as well? You’d start with Lloyd Street where Boutique and Silks have made a good start. A few shop windows, a few specialist shops, and on it goes.

It works for every other major European city – so why not here?

But every zone needs a hub, and where better than the old Ithaca site. No-one was more gutted than me when Tony “Fordy” Ford and Arnie Hira had to close the door. It was a venue ahead of its time. The décor was the very best, even though the food was a bit poncey for my palette. I said all along that it is the perfect venue for a lap dancing bar. Lots of nooks and crannies, plenty of private areas, and it’s a multi-level leisure destination that in time could be a magnet for loaded lads the world over.

I’ve even thought of a name: Four Floors of Whores.

And that, dear reader, is why I am so good at what I do.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Halliwell Landau RIP

I was as shocked as anyone by what’s gone on at Halliwells, but there’s been a lot of rot talked.

I’m going to stick my neck out and speak up for the lads over there. First, so they did this hooky property deal where the partners all creamed a few mill each. SO WHAT? That’s capitalism kids. Get real. As I was saying to one of the ex-partners on his yacht in Puerto Banus the other week – who wouldn’t honestly have done the same thing given the choice? I know I have and if it wasn’t for the cowardice of the banks, then I would again.

Second, this lad Ian Austin was meant to have made a speech in Prague – great city for a lads trip by the way - saying the firm was going places. Jeez, if every bit of tub thumping rhetoric I’ve spewed out over the years was quoted back at me there’d me more rubbish talked about me on the internet than Steven Gerrard.

I don’t know this Austin myself – Halliwells will always be Clive Garston and Alec “Craigy” Craig to me – and the Earl of Lancashire Chris Eddlestone. This was a firm with a bit of breeding. And surely it’s no coincidence that the less you’ve seen of these lads in the office in Manchester, the more you hear of the problems piling up.

And they’ll always be Halliwell Landau as well – a much more sinister name that struck fear into the hearts of some loser you were suing. I’ll never forget the look on the face of some high street brief from Bramhall when the Halliwell Landau mob slammed their briefcases on the table and screamed – and screamed “we’re the Sweeney and we ain’t had our dinner.”

Next, the offices. Fair enough, they were a bit over the top and I’d have turned that ground floor reception into a branch of Subway, or Branagans, or Panacea, or something. And I’d have put them foxy receptionists on show at the front, not hidden upstairs. It’s the little touches, see.

The thing is, I know I speak for a lot of other successful stand-up lads who’ve done well out of the firm when I mention all of this. There are quality operators out there who have been served well over the years. Good lads like Mark Guterman, Mike Connett, Mike Ashley and last, but by no means least, Chris Ronnie.

This sporting life

I’m a competitive guy and I hate to lose. That much is obvious, right? And I reckon I’m onto a sure-fire winner with my latest import, the vuvuzela. You’ll have heard them if you were watching any of the World Cup, some people find them annoying but to me they sound just like my accountant droning “We can’t do this Roger, we can’t do that Roger”.

I think they stole my heart when I was wandering through town and some Doris in a football shirt whispered sweetly to me: “Would you like to blow on my vuvuzela?”. That touched me in a very special place, I have to say. They’re going to be all over the Premier League like Dani Behr next season and I’ve got the exclusive UK licence.

Me and a few of the boys piled over to SA for a few days to soak up the atmosphere and seal the deal, as it were. The football was rubbish. Saw some dross between Bongo Bongo Land and the former Soviet Republic of Bulimia, forget the details. England were shite as well.

I just wish someone had said it was winter, it was bloody freezing. Although my beige Hugo Boss looked the bollocks when we were on safari.

It’s been a busy month on the sports front. Pal of mine whistled up a few Centre Court tickets for Wimbledon (last time I went they lost 2-1 to Coventry, ha ha) which was a belting day. Belting if you like old biddies reading the Daily Mail and eating strawberries, anyway. There were a few young Dorises knocking about, although with these tennis sorts you’re never sure if a) they’re legal or b) they’ve got a mental dad from some East European war-zone. Best to steer clear.

I’ve also been up to the cricket at Old Trafford. I quite like that big red box they’ve got over the little changing rooms building, but we could have done a better job with it, or at least got them a sponsorship deal with China Shippping. I was hoping to have a catch-up with Beefy Botham but the mobile signal must be blocked out by the new box – and Freddie Flintoff was out of bounds too, think he was busy on a bash with his best pal Paul “Becky” Beck.

That’s not all. I’ve offered my services to the lads who’ve taken over Chester City. I’m a “football man” who thinks he’s got a lot to offer in the boardroom and beyond – there’s no point being modest about the fact I can play a bit. Basically, I just want to be brilliant around people.

For some reason, when I told them I was good pals with Mark Guterman and Alex Hamilton, lads who’ve been there and done that when it comes to footy clubs, they went all cold on me. I’ve never understood the Welsh.

Monday, 31 May 2010

For the sake of the sick kids

I don’t like losing. I was in the running to be the face of Finn Air, but lost out to that Imran Hakim. You know, the lad with the teddy bears and the scruffy shoes. I was told he has a softer and more positive image – which is why he now flies first class to Shanghai for nothing and has his face on all the billboards and I don’t.

After a bit of research into my brand equity; which roughly translates as taking Lisa Morton to lunch, and asking her what everyone says about me, she bluntly told me I come across as sexist, arrogant and, frankly, “a selfish oaf”. It cut me to the quick did that, and if she wasn’t such a looker I’d have slapped her: just ask Andy Spinoza what happened when he told me what I didn’t want to hear. Alright, I take the sexist and arrogant on the chin, but I’m not selfish. I pay my tax. I cooperate with the investigators and do my bit for charity. Trouble is, I just don’t talk about it enough.

That’s why I decided to devote the last month to good causes.

I put a team in the Premiership Cook Off for the Five Stars Appeal – something to do with sick kids, always a winner with me. It was also at my local, Panacea in Alderley Edge. What a great night.

All the footy boys were there: Wayne Bridge, Shaun Wright-Philips, Robbie “Sav” Savage, some Africans from Stoke and a load of foreign lads from City who’ve been practising like mad as they don’t get to play much since the Ab Dabs started buying players like kids buy Panini stickers.

The only problem with having footballers at events is the auction. Usually the winner is me, winding up the lawyers and bankers by upping the bidding on all these prizes that “money can’t buy”. Not this time, the football lads are rabidly competitive, and they can afford it. Ickle Shaun coughed up £4K to be bullied by Ricky Hatton for the day.

Speaking of competition, once I heard that Rob “John Terry” Cotton was doing his 10k runs in ten countries I had to have a piece of that action. I’m not going to pretend it wasn’t hard work, but I did my bit. And just to show I wasn’t going to be outdone by Imran Hakim, Tony “Mach” Machin, Mike Perls or any of the rest of them I knocked off an extra one in Abersoch when we got back. All the way round, as my joints ached and my heart pounded, I was told to focus on the kids and what it means to them. I couldn’t bring myself to do that, but when I’m the poster boy for a major European airline, then all the pain will have been worth it.

You can still donate here.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Fly away

Well, who saw that coming? As Tony Tighe (he’s grrrrrrreat, geddit?) or maybe it was Mark “Fast” Boler said in the bar at Mere, you can’t go implementing anti-terrorist measures against the Icelandic government without them exacting some sort of revenge, and it’s not like the Cod Wars this time, or like when they went bust and Chris “Purple” Ronnie had to give up his sports shops. They only went and blew up a volcano.

I reckon it all looks like an insurance job. I mean, Iceland goes bust and the island catches fire. Yeah, right. We've all been there before haven't we?

Actually, one of the lads had a bet running that the whole explosion thing was something to do with Russian mobsters getting their own back after their dodgy dosh had been frozen, but I for one am not going public with that sort of slur on the Ivans, I don’t really fancy keeling over in Yo! Sushi! after a tuna and polonium II wrap.

Timing is everything and as luck would have it, the RC Solutions mob had just got back from a team-building session in Banus when the skies got closed down – I wanted to be back over for the Beefy Botham walk in Manchester - so we all had a good laugh at the muppets kipping down in airports and moaning about their “holiday of a lifetime” being ruined. Pass the tissues.

That Mick with the cheap planes where you have to pay to use the bog was funny, refusing to stump up for hotel stays and he had a point to be fair – if you book on Tightarse Tours why should you get the Presidential Suite just because there’s a bit of a delay? The week was a breeze for us, frankly. Took the chopper down to Abersoch for the weekend, job’s a good un.

It’s at times of crisis that the best of breed set themselves apart and my good mate Lawrence “Jonesy” Jones of UKFast took the man of the match prize home. Jonesy and his lads were due over at some “hosting conference” in Verbier – it’s in the Swiss Alps, for the benefit of poor people – but he got told his private jet couldn’t make the trip.

Jonesy’s made of stern stuff though, and commandeered a couple of Porsche Cayennes to do it by road. James “Kighty” Kight from Printerland bet him a quid he wouldn’t make it, which is all the encouragement anyone needs. At one point he had to throw a few quid to the French plod after misunderstanding the speed limit, but they made it to Dickie Branson’s gaff in time. Which when you see the pictures of his marketing girls in the hot tub you'll understand why.

Fair play to Jonesy, I’ll buy him a beer next time I’m at Sale Sharks, as they didn’t get relegated. And the planes are back flying so no harm done. Anyone know when Tony “Fordy” Ford’s next golf trip is?

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Seasons in the sun

I only got into property because it’s the last bastion of fun. Golf days, trips to the races, Friday afternoons in Sam’s Chop House and loads of awards dinners. And then there’s MIPIM. While our solutions lot have an annual trade show in Hanover, the property boys go to Cannes for a week of proper debauchery and serious drinking.

Believe you me, it is mental and this year’s bash didn’t disappoint. All the public sector bods have been spinning out the party line that its nowadays all about hard work, that they’re only there because it’s the only way of getting in front of all the big hitters from the sensible banks (ie not the Jocko or Paddy ones) and the “inward investors” - frankly, registering as an end user for MIPIM is like being the fit girl in one of those American high school films, you’re beating blokes off with a shitty stick.

Hard work? This lot want to try working for RC Diamond Geezers in Angola if they want to know what hard work is. MIPIM may be a bit quieter, but there’s still a hell of a lot of boozing to be done, and if you’re pretty well connected – as I happen to be – there’s usually a boat to head to for some entertainment. Last year I ended up at a Bananarama gig on some yacht, apparently some damage was done to the mahogany fittings and whatnot, but we were long gone, tucked up in Barracuda bar, before the captain got wind of it.

You’ve got to get in the spirit of it and dress the part as well, though most lads don’t bother, just grabbing a pair of Oakley sunglasses at the airport so they’re not squinting over their lagers at the Russian “marketing girls” outside Café Roma. This year, Lord Tom Bloxham had a checked suit just like this table cloth we have at the gaff in Abersoch, while a few of the chaps see themselves as the Man from Del Monte and don some light-coloured linen numbers – if they were as “ripped” as me, they’d look like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever, but after a few beach lunches it’s not such a good idea.

To be fair, I got a few deals done this year. Rostov, which I think is in Russia, put on a belting stand which managed to hold my attention a bit longer than the Peel boys’ banging on about the Ocean of Opportunity or whatever. Olga, as I think she was called, gave me all sorts of stats on the labour availability, international connectivity and all that tackle, which was fantastic. The upshot is I’ve put together a mixed-use resi, golf course and marina scheme which I reckon is going to blow their bloody socks off. They respect an entrepreneur, the Russkis.

Yes, MIPIM’s great. The only downside is the clash with Cheltenham, but when you’ve got a few credits on a private jet you can nip between the two. This must be what they mean by the “Global Village”. Frankly, I’m all for it.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Hammer Time, Truth Time

I thought it was only fair of me to explain why I’ve taken RC Spam Solutions off the market. I know it was keeping every adviser in town busy, but trust me, it’s for the best. For the past six months all the corporate finance muppets have been on at me to sell assets – they reckon the last desperate, spiteful act of the outgoing socialist regime will be to whack capital gains tax up to, I don’t know, pick a figure; the more desperate they are, the closer to 50 per cent it creeps.
Selling a good business goes against every entrepreneurial bone in my body. It’s the crap ones I try and get rid of, flogging them for the highest possible price before someone works out what’s really going on, or just doing a phoenix to wash out the bad debt.
So we “ran a process” as they say – that basically means playing off one bunch of idiots against the others. We had four of them running around so confused they didn’t know what time it was. And what a motley lot they were. Muppets.

  • On one side we had the kids who’d been bullied at school, who now try and cut up rough – private equity to me and you.
  • Two, the teenage scribblers who’ve barely started shaving from the City fund managers; they were looking to back our float on AIM.
  • Three, we also got on to these religious weirdos from America who do the same thing as us (in fact, we stole the idea). Stick a mysterious US trade buyer into an auction and it can go either way – it can frighten the home team off, or spring them into action.
  • Last and by all means least, we also told management to put a bid together, but frankly they proved something I always suspected, they’re about as much use as Stephen Hawking’s skis. So, the official line is, I’m unconvinced the new ownership opportunities represented the best strategic options available. I could leave it at that.
But the process has also flushed out a few home truths that have proved useful. The management we’d been thinking of getting rid are so frustrated they want to get out and it won’t cost us a penny. The American rivals are in more trouble than we realised, borrowed too much in the good times – tut tut. The City boys fully understand our sentiment and we’re going to be
welcome back anytime. As for the private equity lads? They still run the best ski trips. And the whole auction was run on contingent fee structure. Happy days!

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Justice for Vance Miller

My trust in good old British justice has been restored. Just when I thought that the socialists were running rampant and squeezing the last drop of entrepreneurial spirit out of this once proud nation, good sense has prevailed.

I refer of course to the plight of Vance Miller – the King of Kitchens, and a top bloke. The Trading Standards mob have hounded the poor lad. Now, he’s free to pursue his business after the Judge threw the case out. Sounds like one of the Trading Standards blokes got a bit obsessed. They do, you know. I had this VAT investigator after me once who even started dressing like me and eating in San Carlo every Friday. I knew he’d lost the plot when I spotted him in Long Legs under assault from some scrubber from Oldham with, to be fair, magnificent charlies.

But enough of that. The New Year has brought its usual bag of surprises. Our finance director resigned, thinking he can go on to bigger and better things. Now, you know these Coronation Street so-called “stars” who do two years at it, get in the papers, get a new agent, go on Big Brother, or the Jungle, or something and think they can take Hollywood by storm? Well, that’s what this bloke is like. He’d be better off reflecting that the smartest one on Corrie Street is Ken Barlow – been at it 50 years, lives in a big house in Wilmslow. The turncoat will be back when he realises he’s only got where he is because I let him.

Once they come back after Christmas all these muppets here need reminding of what they’re here to do. So I get them in a room and give them a proper facts of life lecture. I’ve had these big posters done up for the sales floor – big pictures of me bearing down on them – “Bring me solutions, not problems!”, “Just Sort It!”, “You’re the cream? Well I’d hate to taste the milk!”.

I give them the usual hairdryer treatment; you know how that works; knock ‘em down to pick them up.

Some of the lads from Alderley went to some business do last month called RAW. I was asked to get involved, but it didn’t look like my cup of tea. For a start, they should have called it WAR – because that’s what REAL business is like.

All my worst suspicions were confirmed when I heard the car park was full of Porsche Boxsters and Audis R8s. Hardly my class of motor, are they? And who in Salford Quays could you trust to valet park a Hummer?

An open goal for entrepreneurs

Am I the only person left who still thinks Dubai is ace? Me and Mrs C had a pre-Christmas break - she likes the shopping and the skiing and I’d heard a whisper the Stevie Gerrard Tower might be available for a song now everything’s going tits up. They keep going on about unsustainable debt levels, but there’s still plenty of Russkis and Afghans about, but the good thing is all the scrotes have bailed out, that night flight from Ringway was starting to look like the Agadoo express. No class.

Out of despair comes happiness, for some. When your mind moves as fast as mine, it’s easy to forget that not everyone’s blessed with the natural ability to be a winner. One man’s hapless idiot is another man opportunity.

Take debt, which I’ve never been shy of doing. We’ve set up RC Money Saving Expert Solutions - a loans business. We run cheap ads on daytime telly and then just waited for the calls to flood in. Your sales jockeys take the calls, act sympathetic and “refer” the request to a “boss” who obviously refuses it – you don’t want to end up actually giving out cash after all.

But you follow this kick in the goolies up with an arm round the shoulder, by referring the punter to a sister company in debt management – the lad at the next desk, or even the same one if he’s good at accents.

We then sign the punter up to one affordable monthly payment at whatever per cent he thinks he can get away with, all in exchange for offering advice they could get for free if they had the wit to look up some cuddly public sector cardigan-wearing types on the internet. It’s flawless, and best of all unstifled by the type of regulation that’s holding British business back.

The only problem is we had that Donal MacIntyre sniffing around – the one who made a berk of himself going undercover with the Chelsea lads a few years back. He was on the radio - kicking up a fuss about it, but why should entrepreneurs miss an open goal in the meantime? As someone once told me, “When we’re good they never remember, when we’re bad they never forget.”