Nicholas Pye, Buyout Guy: Finding the One

Basically, I’ve been very unlucky so far in my buyout career. Incredibly unlucky, in fact. 

For a start, I’ve had to launch my career in the midst of a once-in-a-generation slump.  Personally I don’t mind that; to me, problems are just opportunities spelled wrong. But not everyone has my nerves of steel. Many is the time that I’ve brought a fantastic deal back to the Shop, only for the seller to pull the plug because they’re worried about something insignificant (like how badly a sale will jigger their IRR ahead of their next fundraising).

This time will be different though – because this deal is so good that there’ll be a slice of deal pie (or should I say Deal Pye) for everyone.

Now, I have a very clear investment philosophy, honed over literally months of experience in this industry. In short, I represent long-term patient capital. I say to managers: I will literally be there for you for as long as it takes to get this business to the next level – subject of course to my investment window, waterfall arrangement and fundraising cycle.  

So with that in mind, let me tell you a bit more about The Deal itself. First thing you need to know is that it’s totally proprietary – literally nobody else knows about it (apart from the banker who introduced me to it, and some other shops that probably won’t even bid). The business itself is a Northern Europe textile manufacturer/ exporter – focused primarily on southern Europe, yes, but in a very defensive sector. It’s pretty early-stage for us, but it’s incredibly disruptive and incredibly zeitgeisty. I’m telling you, it’s going to be HUGE. 

I can tell there’s already a bit of buzz about it at the Shop. Obviously I’m not the type to blow my own trumpet. But clearly word has started to filter back about the home-run potential of this bad boy, because I’m already starting to get a few comments here and there.

Of course, not all of these comments have been supportive. Buyout shops are competitive places, full of alpha personality types (like myself). Everyone wants to bring home the best deal. So when I unearth an opportunity like this, I expect a bit of jealousy. 

Take Tamara, another associate who started around the same time as me. Not being harsh, but it’s pretty obvious that she’s been living in my shadow a little bit (yes, she may have done a couple of deals already, but we’ll see how those pan out). And she chooses to deal with this via aggression.

“Hi Nick,” she said when I saw her last week (she’s away a lot with the fundraising team at the moment – my boss tells me it’s something to do with highlighting the Shop’s young talent, which I had a real laugh about!). “Hear you’ve got a big deal brewing?”

“Nicholas. And yes. This is going to make Pets at Home look like… Pets Do The Funniest Things.”

She looked a bit confused by this, but pressed on regardless. “So what’s the company?” I gave her the quick version – just ten minutes or so. 

She looked confused again (tbh she’s not that smart). “So basically, you want to sell olive oil bottles to the Greeks? And you think now’s the time?”

“You think Greeks are going to stop buying olive oil? They’d rather stop breathing. It’s the ultimate counter-cyclical business. And then there’s the social element – that’s the real killer app here.”

“Ah, right – so because they can have a picture of their own face on the bottle, it’s basically depression-proof?”

I can tell she’s finally got it, because a huge smile spreads across her face. Better late than never, love, I think to myself.