Board meetings

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We tended to hold our board meetings in interesting places. Even the ones we held at the office were usually followed by a doubles’ tennis match at Highbury Fields.

We held one notable meeting at the Marbella Club, flying in our exec and non-exec directors for two nights with the meeting in between. Richard and I had decided not to cramp the style of our execs on the first night and they went out in a group to Puerto Banúsfor the evening. At the appointed time for the meeting the next morning we sat with the non-execs waiting on the team’s arrival, no-one showed up. I called each of their rooms and told them to get themselves down to the meeting without allowing discussion.

The first one arrived with a silly grin on his face but seemingly unable to talk. The next arrived with a look on his face that suggested if you questioned him he would strike out. The third arrived perfectly turned out, obviously his early-morning routine had kicked in. Despite our advising casualwear would be fine, he was in full suit, collar-and-tie, clutching his briefcase – but his face was one big gravel rash. The others were no better.

One of the guys was a serious type-1 diabetic and before going out had dosed himself up for his expected alcohol intake and so was then obliged to hit the booze or he would have been in trouble, the others had followed his lead. Late that night they had been walking in the port and two taller guys had the shorter, Graham, supported between them, with his arms around their necks. When one stumbled they all fell over and Graham took the fall on his face. Now it sounds amusing, but at the time I ordered them all to go and sober up and delayed the meeting for an hour.

We had been there to discuss our going to market, this was not a good start. We did later place 10% of the company for £1.2m on the OTC market, attracting several large institutional investors, so no great harm appeared to have been done.


A tight squeeze

Another board meeting excursion, intended more as a team building exercise, was two days at Stocks Country Club near Tring in Hertfordshire. It had its city club on Kings Road, Chelsea and the pair were at this time owned by Victor Lownes. He was better known for being a Playboy executive, close confidante of Hugh Hefner, and known for dating many Playboy Playmates. It was therefore no surprise to see that the club had a series of paintings that had been commissioned to show the various Kama Sutra sex positions, each illustrated in a recognisable location around the Club, for example one was on the snooker table.

ASIDE: We were there for a board meeting, followed by a meal, and several of us stayed over. Coming down to breakfast I saw Victor Lownes was breaking his fast, clad in a Carlton Cannes dressing gown. All around the club were signs suggesting you should challenge Victor to backgammon, so I did. We played at a £1 a point for ten to twelve hours with fortunes ebbing and flowing between us.

I had to be told afterwards that at some stage Felicity Kendall had sat at our table. She had recently been awarded the ‘Rear of the Year’ accolade, but I had been so engrossed I had not even noticed her.

I ended up £50 down, but had been more than that up on a number of occasions, it had been my first professional backgammon engagement.

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