Scam

The chairman is invited to take part in a roadshow, resulting in a nightmare for its organisers, and his emergence as a minor television personality rather goes to his head.

”What is it they say about never doing business with one’s friends?” I mused to myself as I sat alone in The Zookeeper & Penguins drinking a pint or two of Old Mother Veitch’s Kentucky Oil. Never do it, is of course what they say – but the chairman of the implausibly-sized investment company Second Coming Asset Management and I had not listened to them and it had not ended well.

As you may have noticed, the chairman and I have a longstanding rule never to do anything together but drink industrial quantities of improbablynamed beer. However, he has for a while been keen to join the Unique Boutiques roadshow and, partly because I put in a good word as the gig’s chairman, Scam was invited to join this rarefied gathering of investment royalty as part of the 2011 vintage.

”My involvement centred on talking the video and audio operators down from the window ledge …”

Even though I say so myself, the seven-date roadshow went pretty well and indeed contained what may very well be the finest answer ever given during an investment roadshow question-and-answer session. Asked what he saw as the key risk to his fund in 2011, the splendid Paul Mumford of Cavendish Opportunities replied: “I suppose the key risk would be if I croak.”

Unfortunately Scam’s contributions were rarely in the same league. For starters, more of my involvement than one might expect this year centred on talking the video and audio operators down from the window ledge after yet another last-minute change of Scam’s presentation slides and films – two of which took place as the attendees were already filing into the room.

Add in the speaker and schedule changes, the demands to have a stand about three times as big as anyone else’s – what would Freud have said about that, I wonder? – and the questionable habit of Scam’s salesmen occasionally intruding on the business conversations rivals were having with delegates and I was beginning to regret my introducing them to the roadshow’s organisers. (Scam continues below)

Mix in how one of their schedule changes prevented me from linking their Indian equities presentation to the Cavendish one with the solid-gold “Now we move from Mum-bai to Mum-ford …” and it was clear it was only a matter of time before the chairman and I had a falling out … and it was at this point the chairman asked if he might speak at the final leg of the roadshow in London.

Now, I’m not sure if you are aware of this but the chairman has recently become something of a minor television personality, following up his inadvertent appearance on Question Time last year by somehow wangling spots on Bargain Hunt and Cash in the Attic as well as a regular gig as resident investment specialist on The One Show, which may have ended, although nobody quite knows why.

Anyway, as I know all too well after my three or four appearances on Bloomberg TV in 2003, sudden television stardom is a dangerous thing and, as I constantly told the dear little chap who kept my dressing room and trailer stocked with fresh orchids and blue Smarties throughout the whole of the roadshow, not everyone is able to take it in their stride as naturally as I have.

As you might imagine, the chairman’s minions find it pretty hard to tell him “no” at the best of times but, once he had been filmed in the audience of Jools Holland’s Hootenanny, he was out of control. People and their egos, eh? He got his speech in London plus a place on the Q&A panel and, while his introductory video painting him as investment guru, philanthropist and great guy was bad, it got worse.

Far worse. OK, so I may have let the London timings overrun a little but his transparent attempt to wind up the Q&A himself so he could make his getaway by suggesting the audience were ready for their lunch was, frankly, unforgivable. “You may be chairman of Second Coming Asset Management,” I told him from the lectern, where I had been marooned as he had nabbed the event’s sixth and final microphone. “But I am chairman of this event.” As I say, people and their egos, eh?