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 CafĂ© 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!