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 And don’t tell me we don’t do fine dining - the McDonalds in Wilmslow has been replaced by Strada.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.