Nicholas Pye, Buyout Guy: No Pye in team

Look, don’t tell anyone, but there’s a bit of a shake-up going on at Big Shop (Or is it a shake-out? Or even a shake-down? I get confused by our American chums’ liberal attitude to prepositions).

Anyway, point is that our glorious leader John T. Leviathan is ‘cleaning house’ (as he puts it) in Europe. Which, allegedly, means he’s ushering two of the London partners not-very-gently through the exit door.

As you know, I believe 135 percent in the buyout world. I’m bought in to buyouts (see what I did there?). It’s clearly the greatest system of governance developed since Moses wandered down Sinai with the Ten Commandments and some slightly singed fingernails.

But if I had one teeny tiny criticism of the industry – and you’ll appreciate this is a tough admission for me – it’s that it doesn’t seem to be very good at sacking its own people.

Now, sacking other people: not a problem at all. A genuine strength, in fact. Some of the great management team firings have passed into lore around this place. My personal favourite was a JTL special: he flew a particularly hopeless senior management team over on a slow connecting flight from Europe to New York, and while they were in transit, had their desks cleared and the contents shipped direct to JFK. So when they landed, they were greeted with all their stuff – and a return ticket home on the next flight (economy, of course). When some of them tried to go back to their office on landing, they discovered he’d had all the locks changed. Boom. That’s a classy way to get canned.

The current favourite that’s been making us laugh in the office lately is to tell CEOs that they’ve been ‘demised’, a term apparently coined by HSBC recently (when, in a pleasingly contrarian move, it sacked 900 relationship managers in order to better meet the needs of its customers).

However, when it comes to internal firing – especially in the senior echelons – even the most flesh-eating buyout titan seems to get a bit squeamish.

Personally, I’m unequivocal here. Thanks to the sheer iniquity of the whole fund carry system, I have to pay the price for other people’s idiocy – while the partners are presumably going to end up with a bigger chunk of upside from my olive oil home run than I will. Mi casa tu casa, sort of thing. So get ‘em out the door ASAP, I say.

I can only assume the top brass get too preoccupied with how it might look; that they’re worried about scurrilous organs like Private Equity Multinational printing wholly unfair stories suggesting that the Europe team is struggling (well, maybe not this organ – clearly they would never do anything to jeopardise their relationship with their star columnist). And that is a pain, to be fair, because when the public pension officials clock in at 10.15am the next morning, they’ll be straight on the phone in a state of panic.

Either way, clearly nobody has had the decency to man up and do the deed yet, because these two are still traipsing mournfully round the office like Banquo’s very well-dressed ghost.

Eventually, I decided to ask my boss what the situation was.

“Nick, you know I can’t talk about this to someone on your pay grade. So forget about it. Don’t waste what little thinking time goes on in that head of yours.”

I suddenly had a thought. “You’re not getting fired too, are you?”

“Try to keep the excitement out of your voice, Pye. No, I’m not getting fired. I’ve already been punished enough by having to manage you.” 

Gallows humour – don’t you just love it!