Now we’re acquainted, I should probably tell you about all the other key players in this brilliant and beautiful world we call buyouts. So listen up.
People will tell you that the debt markets are frozen at the moment. They’re wrong. Debt bankers are frozen at the moment. Have you seen any leveraged finance guys lately? You can see the fear in their faces; the fetid stench of failure hangs over them like the ghost of Fred the Shred at the RBS Christmas party.
(Personally, I don’t feel fear. Never have. I imagine you’re probably thinking: God, Nicholas, you’re so fortunate. Well, yes. But it’s a blessing and a curse.)
One of the best things about becoming a buyout guy is that it automatically elevates you to the top of the City pecking order. When I was a banker, I had to spend a lot of time being nice to idiot clients, purely because of the whole “they pay your wages” thing. Now, those days are over. I pay their wages, so what I say goes.
Some debt guys seem to think I’ll go easy on them, just because I’ve been on the other side of the fence. Nothing could be further from the truth. I’m the boss now, and it’s important that they never forget that.
The Shop is very clever about this. When I first started, my boss sat me down and said:
“It’s Nicholas… I mean, if it’s ok, I’d prefer…”
“Whatever… Listen, it’s important for the Shop to have good relationships with our advisors. It means they bring us more deals, and it makes life a lot easier. So don’t go acting the Billy Big Potatoes.”
What I understood this to mean was that I should only ever undermine and denigrate bankers in a discreet way. I like to think I’ve taken that learning on board and actioned it.
Don't get me wrong; I like PRs. But only the blondes.
I’m not going to lie to you: there’s always a slightly difficult dynamic between buyout guys and bankers. Imagine doctors had to work with dentists on a heart bypass, say. Yes, the dentists also wear white coats. But you know that they’re only doing that job because they couldn’t get into medical college. Well, I feel much the same way about bankers.
Then you have the lawyers. Now that’s a completely different story. In the analogy above, lawyers would be like a dental nurse who insists on you keeping your scalpels in a particular order. Never mind medical college; you’re lucky if they’ve finished school.
Just to be clear: I’m not saying lawyers are thick. (It’s an analogy, duh.) Actually, some of my best friends from Cambridge are lawyers (mostly the clueless arts graduates, to be fair, but still). I’m just saying that at deal time, they’re about as much use as a Greek IOU. That’s why they’re right down at the bottom of the pecking order, vying with the accountants for scraps of human kindness from buyout guys and bankers alike.
I guess I should also mention PRs, for the sake of completeness. I haven’t actually done any press stuff yet, amazingly. But as far as I can gather, all PRs do is arrange conference calls and try to stop people being interesting. Don’t get me wrong; I like PRs. But only the blondes. (Look, I spend a lot of time with bankers and lawyers. I need some upside).
The other important cog in the well-oiled buyout machine, of course, is the management team. Normally these people are pretty hot on ball-bearing specs, but they couldn’t structure an SPIV if it hit them over the head. Much like PRs and lawyers, in fact.
I swear: sometimes my job is more like A-level Economics teacher than white-hot corporate financier. Only with infinitely better suits.