OFF to the majestic surroundings of the Royal Courts of Justice last night for the annual Quoted Company of the Year awards – where the organisers had either pulled out all the stops to secure the services of the evening’s hostess, or had enjoyed a remarkable stroke of good fortune.

Happily for the sporting fans in the room, the “first lady of football” Karren Brady turned up to present the awards, after being appointed to join new co-owners David Sullivan and David Gold as vice-chairman of West Ham United just last week.

“About 50 per cent of the people in this room have pitched to me,” Brady whispered, skilfully fielding a plea from a passing Portsmouth fan about whether or not the embattled club is likely to go under (yes, unless they secure more cash, for those who interested in the answer…)

Of course, what The Capitalist was burning to find out was who Brady – a lifelong Gooner – would support if West Ham ever came up against Arsenal on the pitch under her watch.

“I couldn’t possibly comment, apart from to say that I would always have to support my business,” she chuckled, wryly.

Quite the shining example of diplomacy, I’m sure.

Among those doyens of the small-cap world receiving their gongs from Brady were Jonathan Milner of Abcam, the chief executive of the year; Simon Embley of LSL Property Services, for its bargain acquisition of rival HEAL; Gordon Banham of Hargreaves Services, the entrepreneur of the year; and Gervais Williams of Gartmore Investment, the most respected fund manager in the sector.

But though Williams’ prediction is that the days of small caps getting hammered on the market are over – at least for the next five years, when he says they’ll be on a steady upward climb – not everyone in the room was so convinced.

“Seriously, it has been a s*** year, hasn’t it?” comedian Hugh Dennis, the star of the Beeb’s Mock the Week, remarked. “Virtually every person in here has lost me money over the past year – I have an Aim portfolio, and before I leave, I think I’m going to have to talk to somebody…”

Mind you, given the raucous small cap community’s reputation at such shindigs, it’s something of an achievement that Dennis (below) managed not only to score a fair few laughs with his gags, but also to make it through the evening unscathed.

One group of guests were overheard reminiscing about the fate of previous entertainers at both this and other awards dinners for the sector – including one comedian who received a vicious kick in the balls after commenting on a certain female chief executive’s weight, and another who, faced with stony silence, gave up half way through his speech with the bitter passing shot: “Screw you w**kers, I’m taking my £50,000 and I’m off...”

They’re evidently a tough lot to please.