Nicholas Pye, Buyout Guy: Dull, dull, dull

Can you believe summer’s almost over? Thank GOD. 

Admittedly, this one hasn’t dragged quite so badly as last year’s – when London was full of people of otherwise sound mind banging on about the infernal Olympics for weeks on end. But it’s still dull, dull, dull. It never fails to astonish me how half the City basically just pulls the shutters down for the whole of August. (Lesser outfits, clearly. Not Big Shop.)

From a buyout guy perspective, about the only good thing you can say about summer is that it tends to be a useful emollient when taking contacts for after-work drinks. Trust me: if you get an LP into Kensington Roof Gardens on a balmy Friday evening, they’ll be so overwhelmed with excitement that they’ll probably write you a commitment cheque on the spot.

Don’t get me wrong: I did take a holiday this year. To Greece, in fact. And very nice it was too, with the obvious exception of the food, the drink and the people. I even brought some Greek sweets back to the office. They were absolutely rancid, of course, but I’m told this is not the point.

“Would you like a sweet?” I asked my boss, when I saw him in the kitchen shortly after he got back from his three-week safari. “I brought them back from Greece. You know, from my holiday.”

“That wasn’t a holiday, Nick. It was a portfolio monitoring and valuation exercise. You were there for three days, all of which you spent with our accountants. If that’s your idea of a holiday, I really do worry about you. Well, not literally. But you know what I mean.”

“Actually it was very relaxing, Boss. I took a whole afternoon off. Did the whole cultural thing: walked round the Metropolis, saw some ruins, got a McDonalds.”

“You’re a true Renaissance man, Pye,” he replied (much to my delight, as I love the Renaissance – in fact, France is my second or third favourite country). “Anyway, enough about you. More importantly, are you all sorted on valuation? Have you squared it away with Ian?”

Here’s yet another brilliant thing about being a buyout guy, which I didn’t even realise until recently: you actually get to value your own deals. How great is that! 

I always kind of assumed that once I’d done the hard bit of originating and closing a genuinely proprietary transaction (and I mean proprietary: we had total exclusivity on my Greek olive oil business, not another buyer in sight) that the Shop would handle all that stuff – that they’d send their finest quant out to Athens to build some incredibly complex DCF and come up with an unimpeachable valuation. 

But instead, it turns out that they just ask me, and take my word for it! 

Of course, it goes without saying that I’m the person best qualified for the job. I know this company like the back of my elbow. And I am, after all, the one steering the ship through these stormy financial waters, which leave even the best galleons 40 percent behind plan. So if I say that the company is valued at exactly the level I thought it would be when the transaction closed, Big Shop can be confident that this is 120 percent reliable.

And it’s not as if there are no safeguards. I had to take someone from our auditors to Athens with me for the holiday/ valuation exercise (some duffer with a Lower Second from a redbrick; I obviously made him sit in Economy, blamed it on management fee pressures). And our CFO Ian has a very thorough oversight of the process, which meant that when I got back to London I had to go straight to his office and tell him what the number was. 

To be honest, I was a touch nervous about this, but he soon put me at my ease.

“So, Pye, what are we talking?”  

I told him.

“Sounds plausible. Done. So, I hear you’re an Oxford man?”