WORDS SIMON DE BURTON / ILLUSTRATION BRETT RYDER
It’s 9am sharp on a Monday and the six partners of private equity fund Lever Ridge Byatt are having their monthly get together to decide what to snap up next.
The problem is, most have more or less lost interest in business – well, there’s no fun in it now, not like it was in Brown’s ‘boom not bust’ economy when everyone thought the cash would keep on flowing and it was considered dereliction of duty not to replace your Aston Martin with a new one every three months.
No, things just aren’t the same, what with ‘QEII’ bumping up inflation and the feeble pound making overseas buyouts a bit pricey. And as for those silly new rules about having to tell the Revenue what you’ve got in your Swiss bank accounts… well, I ask you.
No wonder everyone has looked at his watch half a dozen times by 9.10 and, distracted by their choice of timepiece, allowed his mind to drift off to a place he’d rather be.
Henry is longing to be back home at his Oxfordshire pile, checking out the little beauties in his motorhouse. His collection of classic cars has proved to be one of the best investments he’s ever made, especially the four Ferraris. His personal favourite is the 750 Monza which is now worth the thick end of £2m – not a bad return on the 50 grand it cost as a basket case back in the early Nineties.
He used it to take part in the legendary Mille Miglia – a 1,000-mile dash across Italy for classic cars in which every driver is given a special Chopard ‘MM’ chronograph.
According to Henry’s, this bloody boring meeting has now been running for 13 minutes and 23-and-three-tenths of a second.
Patrick has made enough money to be able to indulge in all the expensive hobbies he could wish to pursue - but his schooling at Gordonstoun gave him a taste for the rugged outdoors and caused him to develop a passion for mountaineering. He spends most of his time these days in central and southern Asia among the great peaks of the world - he’s made his way up Everest, K2 and Cho Oyu and, since he’s back in Europe for a spell, thought he might have a go at some climbs in the Alps. While passing through the airport, he was rather tickled to discover the Montblanc pen company also makes some rather fine watches, so he bought the Vintage Pulsographe in rose gold to remind him of life at 15,000ft.
Gary joined the fund after making a mint on the trading floors during the ‘loadsamoney’ years of the early Eighties – and he’s been letting everyone know about it ever since. Not for him the low-key approach, he believes in living the moment and flashing the cash, so he wears all the best labels, drives an acid-green Lambo and lives in a Candy & Candy penthouse. He’s struggling to keep awake in this meeting, not just because it’s so dull but because he emerged from Boujis only about two hours before it started – and the dazzling glint from his limited edition Backes & Strauss Beau Brummell wristwatch is not doing his emerging headache any favours. Maybe 347 ideal-cut diamonds is a bit over the top even for Gary in the daytime, and he should reserve it for evening wear.
Clifford is the old stager among the group, having come up through the City ranks in the traditional way, reached the status of chairman and then taken early retirement in his early fifties - having, of course, secured a useful string of directorships and consultancy roles to ensure his handsome pension pot need never become too depleted. His desire to spend his latter years amid sun and sea led to him buying a magnificent yacht, which he has expensively crewed with a team of six tanned and muscular 20-somethings who have brought Clifford and ‘A Minimis Incipe’ (‘From The Smallest Beginnings’) a considerable measure of success at classic races in the Med and Caribbean – at the last of which he won the Panerai Luminor Submersible Regatta wristwatch, which, as the meeting drags by, is making him long for the feel of spray on his sea-weathered face.
Gordon studied engineering and always expected to end up as a small cog in a big machine, perhaps designing cup-holders for Audi or girders for futuristic buildings. But as luck would have it, his idea for a new type of lid for bottled water went down a storm with all those people who are obsessed with perpetually re-hydrating and now he’s virtually swimming in cash. He’s still fascinated by the mechanics of things, however, so his Breguet Classique Hora Mundi wristwatch and its instant-jump time-zone display system with synchronised date, day and night and city indications is keeping him pleasantly distracted from the mind-numbing proceedings of the meeting.
Giles made his money at a sufficiently early age to still have enough functioning grey matter to enable him to achieve his boyhood dream of learning to fly planes and helicopters. Now, he enjoys the jet-set life to the full, with his own Robinson R44 chopper for commuting between his Battersea penthouse and Cornish manor house, plus a VLJ (that’s Very Light Jet) for the longer trips to his villa in Antibes and the chalet in St Moritz. All his aircraft are equipped with the latest avionics, but Giles would never leave home without his Breitling Navitimer watch (as promoted by plane-mad John Travolta) with its nifty circular slide rule for navigational calculations. So, instead of paying attention at the meeting, he’s got his head in the clouds trying to work out how much fuel it would take to fly the Robinson from Cannes to St Tropez at 130mph into an eight-knot headwind.