Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Number Of The Beast? £4.7 billion.

I've been busy working on a couple of paid commissions, so you will have to excuse my poor track record of posting recently.

I'm back to you with a small observation about the meltdown in financial markets and the end of private equity's Golden Age.

The thing is, a lot of these deals did get done on emotion rather than cold-eyed business sense. Here's Exhibit A, the purchase of EMI Music by private equity fund manager Guy Hands' Terra Firma.

Hands has always had a following in the press out of proportion to the amount of deals he gets done. It's partly his knack of going after high profile targets (including, for a while, much of the UK's independent public house stock), and partly because he's a friendly, approachable human being.

He used to have a gift for finding sources of revenue, and thus things to raise debt against, that eluded other fund managers, and made him a bunch of money at Nomura, a smallish Japanese bank.

Hands was unusually open about how he did his work, because it frequently involved moving quickly and spotting opportunities rather than the dreary and secretive world of beating better financing terms out of his lenders. He was on pretty good terms with the trade press. I remember a colleague pointing out that Hands was an absolutely huge metal fan, particularly Judas Priest and Iron Maiden.

I don't think my colleague was alone in knowing this information, though I can't find any references from a cursory googling. But it certainly didn't come up when he moved to EMI, and I didn't recall it until I heard how much he was struggling to deal with the purchase (ya know, buying a company whose industry is disintegrating). The deal has apparently consumed his attention and is creating a state of panic at Terra Firma HQ.

So why would Hands embark on such a quixotic project? Answer: EMI has released, since 1980 and 2006, pretty much every single Iron Maiden album ever recorded. The Sex Pistols might have hated EMI, but Eddie liked them just fine. The Priest, mind you, were on CBS.


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