David Parkin on dealing with deal makers

IS doing a business deal an art or a science?

According to the panel at last night’s latest Fresh Thinking Network event it is a bit of both as well as needing a good deal of common sense, strong communication and good relationships.

Fresh Thinking Capital brought together a panel of prolific deal makers to give their thoughts on this fascinating subject in the second of what are a series of monthly events for an audience of rising talents within the Leeds professional services community.

I compered the evening at the Banyan bar in City Square where the panel was made up of four individuals who brought honesty, humour and humility to a discussion about doing deals.

Neil Petty is an entrepreneur who investing into BloomSmith – which provides fast VAT funding – founded Lantern Debt Recovery which purchased over £2bn of distressed debt and was the first Financial Conduct Authority accredited debt purchase company to operate in the sensitive high cost short term area (which is the politically correct way of describing payday loans.

Paul Herriott is a director in the corporate finance team at Dow Schofield Watts and has advised companies across the mid-market on transactions including trade sales, strategic acquisitions, MBOs, private equity and debt fundraising.

Nick Salmons, is relationship director at Shawbrook Bank and works across Yorkshire and the North East to deliver creative debt solutions for under-served SMEs and mid-market businesses.

Jonathan Simms, is a partner specialising in corporate work at law firm Clarion and is experienced in providing advice on a wide range of corporate matters including domestic and international mergers and acquisitions, private equity transactions as well as joint ventures, shareholder arrangements and group reorganisations.

The discussion was lively and engaging because all four of the panellists were keen to pass on what they have learned not just from their successful deals but also their experiences that weren’t quite so positive.

It underlined the oft said assertion that you learn more from your mistakes than you do from getting things right.

Neil Petty started his entrepreneurial journey early, buying free school dinner vouchers from fellow pupils in the playground at school and selling them on for a tidy turn.

Back in the 1990s he said he started importing Japanese cars into the UK.

It all went well until a shipload of 300 cars sank somewhere up the Suez Canal.

“I found out that it was an elaborate scam and the ship hadn’t sank but the cars had gone missing,” Neil told the audience.

“But I was persistent and eventually got all those cars back three years later.”

I told him his detective work was impressive but I couldn’t help thinking that all the cars would have needed an MOT by then.

An hour long panel discussion flew by and I ended the formal part of the evening by asking each panellist what they are looking forward to.

Jonathan, Nick and Paul all said that the enthusiasm and energy of entrepreneurs and business owners would overcome the current economic turbulence.

Neil agreed but he also said he is looking for a girlfriend who is 25 years younger than him.

I told the audience that they were welcome to join Neil and I later for some high level networking at the Purple Door.

Of course that didn’t happen.

Neil was far too busy doing a deal to join me.


FROM Banyan I walked the few steps next door to Restaurant Bar & Grill to attend an event for a business called Asertis.

The invitation came from Chris Jones, who is business development director of the firm which funds litigation such as commercial disputes and group actions as well as specialist insolvency funding.

Chris was chairman of TheBusinessDesk.com when I started it back in 2007 and it was great to catch up with his children Caroline and Oliver and meet his younger son Max for the first time.

Max was just starting school at the inception of TheBusinessDesk.com but is now a strapping 20-year-old.

General counsel at Asertis is former DLA lawyer Philip Holden who went to become head of financial recovery at Lloyd’s of London before founding a litigation management and advisory business which was sold to a listed plc in 2005.

Senior counsel at the firm is Peter Cranston, a veteran insolvency lawyer well known in the Yorkshire market from his time at Eversheds.

It was good to see some of the big names from the Yorkshire professional services market including John Alderton, managing partner of the Leeds office of law firm Squire Patton Boggs and Charles King of EY.

Chris introduced me to chief investment officer at Asertis, Harshiv Thakerar and the firm’s chief executive and founder Ian Madej.

I asked Ian about his experience and he said to me: “I’m a fruit and nut farmer – and I’m not joking.”

It turns out that Ian was a member of the team that listed Arrow Global on the main market of the London Stock Exchange in 2013, having grown the business since its MBO in 2005.

After that he moved his young family from central Manchester to rural Cheshire where he has set up a small farm growing apples and hazelnuts.

But he told me that growing fruit and nuts is only exciting once a year when they are harvested so he launched Asertis in 2020 backed by funding from Arrow Credit Opportunities, a leading European fund of 1.7bn euros investing in distressed and other assets.

I probably talked to Ian more about growing fruit and nuts than about litigation funding but that’s just me.

It was nice to catch up with specialist sports lawyer Richard Cramer.

Although with both his daughters getting married over the last couple of years Richard has also become an expert in rearranging weddings due to Covid restrictions.

Both celebrations eventually happened and were a resounding success but I get the feeling that Richard is now happy back operating in the less choppy waters of international sport and business where he has a vast array of top level clients.

I have Richard to thank for getting me back involved in hosting events after the hiatus of lockdown.

I introduced and interviewed Steve Parkin and Tony Mannix of Clipper Group on a Zoom event last year and from that Steve invited me to a party at his home near Knaresborough last summer where the guests included Gareth Southgate and Frankie Dettori and the entertainment on the Saturday evening was Sir Rod Stewart and Sir Elton John at brunch on Sunday.

“And I didn’t get an invitation to that party!” laughed Richard.

I said I thought he was too busy sorting out weddings.

Have a great weekend.

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