Nicholas Pye: Of gods and men

So, good news and bad news.

(NB. For students of my unique art, this is a technique I like to use when, for example, highlighting the benefits of Big Shop to a management team. Viz.: ‘The bad news is, for an average of five to seven years, you’ll work harder than Pamela Anderson’s sports bra; the good news is, we’ll make you disgustingly rich’. Never fails. Well, apart from on the dozen or so occasions where completely unrelated extraneous factors have forced people to go with other shops).

Anyway, back to my point: the bad news is that my deal got pushed back to next month’s investment committee. But the good news – incredible news, in fact – is that John Leviathan is going to be there, in person! That’s right, loyal readers: the greatest man in the history of buyouts – possibly the greatest man in history, full stop – is going to be in the room for my crowning glory. (He’s in town for some meetings apparently, so he’s stopping in to see the IC first.)

I’m sure our managing partner needs no introduction for any serious buyout people. But just in case there are any lawyers or PRs reading, I’ll give you the kindergarten overview.

John Leviathan is, quite literally, a living legend. As he explains with remarkable objectivity in his memoir “I Have You By The Privates” – in my view, the most important book of the last decade – John basically invented the entire buyout industry. And he continues to bestride it like a colossus. Sometimes people try to tell me that Henry and Steve et al (maybe even Mitt) should be up there with him in the pantheon. I literally laugh in their ignorant faces. These guys are pygmies compared to John Leviathan. He walks among us like a god among men.

I’ve only met him twice, but I’m pretty sure he won’t have forgotten Nicholas Pye.

The first time was when he popped into our Christmas party at the Dorchester. I finally managed to collar him outside just as he was getting into his car, whereupon I gave him a quick five-minute overview of how his book had inspired me.

“Sir, I want you to know: that book changed my life. As soon as I read it, I thought: I want to be as preposterously rich as that guy. And the rest is history.”

“That’s a great story… Nicola,” he said, pausing briefly he tried to read my name badge in the gloaming, while trembling violently with cold.

“Actually it’s Nicholas – the name was just too long for the badge… Or Nick, Nick’s fine too, sir…”

“Well thanks for all the hard work, Nicky,” he said, giving me that famous 100-gigabyte smile as he forcibly wrenched his right hand from mine and threw himself into the waiting limo, where a statuesque blonde flunkey handed him a Scotch that probably cost more than my tuxedo.

The second time we bonded over art. It was the global town hall meeting for the industrials team – one of the great glamour days in the private equity calendar – and he offered to hold it in his apartment on Park Avenue (which is actually about the size of Wembley Stadium, only 25 floors up).

He was going round the room meeting and greeting, so I’d positioned myself in such a way that made it absolutely impossible for him to avoid me. This time, although awestruck by his personal magnificence, I was determined to engage him in Serious Conversation, so I asked about a pencil drawing I’d seen in the bathroom; was it by one of his grandchildren, I enquired politely?

“I don’t have any grandkids. It’s a Picasso,” he replied, before sweeping off into the adoring throng.

It’s worth taking a minute to reflect here. You have something from IKEA in your toilet. This man has a Picasso. Is he or is he not the acme of human evolution?