Nicholas Pye: King of the boardroom

I’d be prepared to wager a lot of money (20 percent mine, 80 percent yours, obviously) that the person who came up with that phrase about “separating the men from the boys” was thinking primarily about the private equity investment committee meeting. Particularly when it’s conducted in the presence of John T. Leviathan, the greatest buyout guy in history.

“So listen,” my boss says wearily at our weekly meeting beforehand. “God only knows how we got this far. I guess you just got lucky that we’re so desperate for good deals that even the most ridiculous ones are being treated like works of contrarian genius… Or maybe JTL has been sniffing the Old Spice again.”

“Seriously, this deal…”

“Stop talking, Nick. And ideally don’t start again until after the IC. Now the good news is that they’ve all seen the memo, which means that for some reason, they don’t hate it. Either that or they want to see me die on my ar… Anyway… Just keep schtum, let me do the talking and hopefully we’ll get out of there with our careers intact. And when I say ‘our’, I obviously mean ‘mine’.”

Such a joker!

Finally the appointed hour came, and I made what will no doubt be my first of many trips to the top floor boardroom. It’s basically wall to-wall mahogany.

“Not many people know this, Nicky, but 15 percent of our management fee goes on Mr Sheen,” the boss whispers to me on the way in. I’m about to quiz him on the tax efficiency of this arrangement, but just at that moment, John Leviathan strides purposefully through the door – all five feet and four magnificent inches of him, trailing clouds of glorious wealth.

He beams that famous smile, does a little glad-handing, and then motions us to the boardroom table: we sit down dutifully, while he takes his rightful place at the head. It feels a bit like being one of the disciples at the Last Supper (but without the tragic undertones).

“So whaddawe got?” he growls (John Leviathan is not one to beat around a bush. He buys that bush. And then eats it.). “Oh yeah, this is the olive oil thing, right? Let’s hear it.”

“Yes John,” says my boss. “So as you all know from the memo-”

“Don’t give me the memo. Give me the memorable.” His glittering eyes sweep the table, and I readily supply the required swoon for his lyrical magnificence.

My boss, to be fair to him, does a pretty good job at selling the dream. I could barely have done it better myself. When he’s finished, Leviathan sits back in his chair and thinks.

“So whose crazy idea was this?” he says, after a while.

My boss instantly points to yours truly. “Pye, John. Nick Pye. Right here. It was all his idea.”

“Nicholas… but thanks… Sir, if you recall, we met-”

“You know what, Pye,” he interrupts. “You’ve got some balls…”

I sense a hush in the room (with my ears). I’m dimly aware that this is probably the most critical moment in my entire life. “Well, thank you, sir, but…”

“Selling olive oil to the Greeks… It’s so damn crazy, it’s genius. I love it! What’s it going to cost me?”

“Sir, they’re basically giving it away…”

“I knew it. Outstanding work, Pye. I’m in. Any objections?”

I was expecting a vote, but it turned out there was no need (as my boss told me later: “Votes are for things John doesn’t care about.”). That was it: a done deal! Next stop, untold riches…