For the second time in a month, Sir Murray St Clair and Elliott Price had a discreet lunch in the private Trophy Room of McDouall’s, the exclusive Gentleman’s club. Once again, Sir Murray ordered the oysters, although a little wary after his last encounter with the delectable molluscs at the club, and Price had the soup.
“Governments around the world have developed a taste for supporting financial institutions in recent times,” Elliott Price told his dining companion who was carefully examining an oyster on the end of a small silver fork.
“With support from the private sector,” Price continued, “I think the government might be persuaded to underwrite the longer term debt.”
Sir Murray put the oyster back onto his plate. “Sorry, you were saying Elliott?”
“No government likes to see a major financial institution go to the wall, especially in an election year. If the depositors lose their money the government loses their votes.” Elliott Price explained deliberately.
“Quite so, quite so…” Sir Murray agreed as he picked up the oyster and proceeded to examine it once more, this time giving it a surreptitious sniff and tentative lick.
“I’ll be taking a commission of course, for my time and …” Price continued before being cut off by Sir Murray.
“No, no, it’s not worth the risk,” Sir Murray said as he pushed the plate of oysters away.
“Frankly Sir Murray,” Price said, stunned by Sir Murray’s reaction to what he felt was a reasonable request. “At this time I don’t see that you have any choice!”
Sir Murray looked up and laughed. “The oysters dear boy! I don’t think I will risk them again, not after last time. Had a touch of Delhi belly, not a pleasant experience. Of course you can have your commission. Only fair.”
Ray Purvis considered himself a thoroughly modern business executive who knew the importance of being prepared, particularly when it came to doing business with people from other countries. At his request, young Ralph Fly had found a Japanese man who gave private lessons to corporate executives in their offices, but it wasn’t cheap. “One three hour lesson should be more than enough,” had been Ray’s reaction to the hourly rate.
The tutor was a thin, ascetic young man who spoke in quiet, reverential tones. “Three hours is not very long Mr Purvis,” Mr Ito said as he settled into one of the leather chairs in Ray’s office. “But, it will allow me to give you a general overview of Japanese history and business culture.”
“Sure, sure, history’s good,” Purvis said, “But how do you say ‘how much?'”
As the tutor tried to explain the importance of family and honour in Japanese society, Ralph Fly listened with interest; and Ray Purvis with increasing boredom and repeated interruptions. “Look, I need the words to clinch this deal Mr Ito,” Purvis said in exasperation, “What about ‘not enough’ and the clincher, ‘sign here’, how do you say that?”
The growing frustration and misery of the Japanese tutor was finally relieved when the receptionist announced over the phone intercom that Mr Price had arrived was hoping Mr Purvis might have a few moments.
“What this is about?” Purvis exclaimed to no one in particular before asking Ralph and the Japanese tutor to wait in an adjoining room. Purvis opened the door to his unexpected visitor. Elliott Price went directly to the point of his visit. He quickly explained he was organising a rescue plan for Regal Mortgage was looking for support, mainly from property developers and building companies.
“We’ve all done well out of Regal as a lender of last resort, Purvis Holdings is no exception.”
Ray Purvis hesitated. “It’s just that it’d be very difficult at the moment, Elliot. I’ve got a lot of debt to service.”
“Surely that is just a temporary matter,” Price said dismissively. “Think of the future Ray, you’re going to need finance.”
“Well, yes of course … but still I don’t know about this rescue idea,” Purvis replied with mounting scepticism, alerted by a sixth sense which had served him so well during his business life.
“Most of the big boys are kicking in. I’m putting in 10 mill myself,” Price said confidently. “I reckon you could do the same.”
“Ten million?” Ray asked, now certain that this was some sort of scam. “It’d better be worth it!”
“It will be Ray, you know what they say, you’ve gotta pay to play. I’ll be hearing from you then?” Purvis asked confidently as he got to his feet, and the two men walked to the office door.
“Sure, I’ll be in touch,” Purvis replied with less certainty.
“Bloody daylight robbery,” Purvis fumed as Ralph showed the Japanese tutor back into the room. “Daylight robbery! Go on, how do you say that Mr Ito?”
The tutor was perplexed. “Stealing daylight? What does this mean? Sun thief maybe?”
In the next episode, “Depositors meeting”, Dean Thomas and the other Regal Mortgage investors finally get an opportunity to tackle Sir Murray St Clair.
NOTE: Seasons greetings to all and best wishes for 2010.