Episode 21: Talking new business over several bottles of ‘03 Bordeaux

SIR Roderick leans across and whispers, “Are you trying to tell me something David?”

“Excuse me Roderick?”

“Only that desiccated scalper Carmichael uses this damned place.”

“Oh,” I reply. “Actually, Sandy brought me here,” I lie. Sir Roderick harrumphs theatrically.

The sommelier approaches. Sir Roderick has delegated the task of ordering wine to me. It’s a test. I fail before I open my mouth. “The ’03 sir? Or will it be the ’59 this time?”

“Told you. Bloody Carmichael,” grunts Sir Roderick. “The Lafite ’03. Two, no, four bottles Michel,” commands Sir Roderick.

“Indeed sir,” replies Michel, obsequiously.

“Now, gentlemen…” And Sir Roderick, suddenly suavity and emollience personified, commences his pitch to our potential foreign clients over lunch in the private dining room of the Bensley Hotel.

I barely listen, although I know that the prospective transaction could pay all of our salaries from now until the cows come home.

Roderick shifts from generalities to specifics and talks of schedules and milestone dates. September, October and November. All I can think of are school term dates and due dates. Even my 40th birthday. I realise that if we undertake this transaction there’s a good chance that I will not be present at the birth of my twins. I think of Emma, my fragile twins and of Noel.

I contemplate principled objections to the transaction. The company’s credit rating is at risk. Their auditors have raised issues about off balance sheet items. The chairman and chief executive are one and the same individual. The company is too close to one or two unsavoury regimes and in the current climate...

“David, perhaps you could take our friends through some of our thoughts on strategy.” I look up. Everyone is looking at me.

“Thank you Roderick. We’re delighted to have this opportunity…” I begin.

City Dad will be continued next Tuesday. For previous episodes, see www.cityam.com