So, the idiot banker.
You’re going to have to narrow it down, Nicholas, I hear you say. Hehe.
(NB. This is not me laughing at my own joke, just to be clear. That would be crass. That’s you laughing at my joke. It was pretty funny, to be fair.)
The particular idiot banker I’m referring to in this instance is the one I’d identified to help me work out what deals Tamara was looking at – thus allowing me to report the details back to my old boss, thus allowing him to spot any possible malfeasance on her part (ideally with the added bonus of an outsized financial gain for me somewhere down the line).
This banker and I go way back – he used to come in to pitch deals to Tamara and me when we were still associates, i.e. before she was promoted several pay grades above her abilities. Clearly she’s far too important to talk to a lowly VP like him these days; but his boss is now her new best friend, which means he’s bound to know what’s occurring.
So how did I intend to extract this information from this guy, I hear you say? Oh, don’t ask silly questions. For a start, as everyone in this industry knows, a banker will give you chapter and verse on his mother’s underwear preferences if he thinks there might ultimately be a fee in it for him. Plus he had no reason to think I wouldn’t already know.
In other words, I had the three things a buyout guy loves most: access, information asymmetry, and leverage.
Now you won’t find many people with a good word to say about bankers these days. And I can understand that. I used to be one, after all. But you have to remember: it’s hard not being a buyout guy. It’s hard not having the ability to make the world a better place through the transformative power of aggressive financial engineering. So I feel some sympathy for them. Well, I say sympathy; more like pity.
Anyway, I’ll say this for bankers: if you want someone to buy you a load of drinks and be fabulously indiscreet about matters of great financial import, there’s absolutely nobody better. (The next time someone starts trying to lecture you about bankers’ greed, selfishness, amorality and superficiality, make sure you point this out; it’ll set the harshest cynic straight.)
So I called up this guy and agreed to meet him for some Krug. For the sake of argument, let’s call him Mike (not least because that’s his name, and it’ll get confusing otherwise).
“Nicky! How are you? It’s been ages! Hearing great things about that olive oil business of yours…”
This is what I like about this guy: he knows a brilliant deal when he sees one.
“Nicholas… Yes, too long. And you’re not wrong: it’s a doozy.” (NB. This is my new favourite word)
“And great news about Tamara, too, right? I have to say: I always thought she was going places.”
Unfortunately, he’s also a very bad judge of people.
Anyway, I was of course charming, and witty, and peppered him with questions about the market that I knew would flatter his ego. And sure enough, before last orders, he was singing like a canary. A canary full of Krug.
(OK, so as interrogations go, it wasn’t exactly Jack Bauer in Guantanamo. But it definitely wasn’t as easy as I made it look.)
What’s that? What’s she working on? Well I can’t tell you that, obviously. This is the big league: careless talk costs lives. (To quote Henry Kravis: I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you. Or was it the guy from Top Gun? Definitely one or the other.)
Suffice to say that it’s the kind of standard, predictable fare that you’d expect from a red-brick plodder like Tamara. Even I’d struggle to shoot the lights out with this lot.