BusinessCorporate FinanceThe corridors of power…

The corridors of power...

One of my weirdest newspaper interviews was with two blokes from Newcastle who came up to London to plug their soon-to-be-floated betting company, Gus Carter.

There was no Gus Carter – it is one of those made-up names – and the whole
thing had a hallucinatory feel to it. Or maybe that was the Stella – the
interview took place in a pub off Fleet Street.

It was all very predictable. No sooner had the Geordie lads got their float
away than the shares took a dive (poor results were blamed on ‘lacklustre
afternoon racing’ – that’s a new one) and the company was swallowed up by
Stanley Leisure. A sorry episode.

I was reminded of Gus Carter when reading about the troubles at Sanctuary
Group, the music company behind Iron Maiden and other tasteful acts. Like the
Geordies, Sanctuary made a big play of raising its profile with a few select
interviews.

It made good copy: Andy Taylor and Rod Smallwood were two mates from
Cambridge who had made a business out of heavy metal. After an extended
softening-up exercise, Sanctuary came to the market in 1996, triggering
multimillion pound windfalls for Messrs Taylor and Smallwood.

It took a little longer, but the Gus Carter effect has kicked in, with four
profit warnings this year alone. Sanctuary is currently sacking one in four
workers in a bid to bring things under control.

Companies that play off novelty value – such as backing a rock band – are
asking for trouble when the worm turns. Journalists are fickle types. So let us
recall a few of those classic Iron Maiden numbers: Chains of Misery, Fate’s
Warning, Lightning Strikes Twice, Massacre, No Prayer for the Dying, Run to the
Hills, The Aftermath…

Sorry boys, but it’s a fair cop.

Jon Ashworth is a freelance journalist and writer

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