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Under the Influence - Moneymen who make the world go around

Friday 5th October 2001

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There are two sorts of moneymen. On the one hand there are the corporate financiers - they're the number-crunchers at big multinational firms like broking houses, investment banks and the big five firms.

These moneymen - and they generally are men - raise debt and handle the structuring of other people's M&As.

Typical CV: strapping lad, head boy, did a commerce degree, likes golf.

These sorts by necessity tend to be risk-averse and make even buttoned-down accountants look flamboyant. They're also dysfunctionally paranoid about publicity - with little reason since there doesn't tend to be anything interesting to write about them. (They must be frightened someone will find out what golf club they belong to or the colour of their BMW.)

The other sort of moneymen is the investment bankers. They're much more fun.

They do their own deals or work closely with those who are making the decisions, so they have to be well-connected with contacts in all the right places - and not just on golf courses.

This sort are players rather than process-workers - they don't just know their way round a balance sheet but also understand, as Jeeves would say, the psychology of the individual.

These moneymen won't always have a calculator in hand but they'll have some clever ways of pulling off the transaction that means there's going to be lots of dosh in it.

Look where the action is - and lately it tends to be surrounding Howard Paterson, Eric Watson or down on the farm - and these are the moneymen you will find ...


Moneymen who make the world go around


1. Graeme Wong

As executive chairman of Southern Capital, most often referred to as the company of entrepreneur Howard Paterson, Wong is very analytical, a brilliant negotiator and intrinsic to the plethora of Paterson deals. And unlike his switched-on fellow directors Paul Davenport and Murray Doyle he works full-time (they roll their sleeves up when needed but don't check in at the office every day).

A former Hawke's Bay boy, "Wongy" is very down to earth. "He's one of the worst dressers you've ever met," a fan of his says admiringly. His deal-making nous is in inverse proportion to his sartorial flair.

The ex-Brierley man's most recent coup was the very astute Tasman Agriculture transaction - a stake Southern Capital bought from Brierley. He also did a stint at DFC and is an ex-broker.

As for his BIL past, a friend points out people slag off BIL but forget it did some very good deals - and Wong left long before it went pear-shaped.


2. Bill Birnie

The boyishly dynamic executive chairman of FR Partners' recent deals cover everything from apples and office space to golf.

He helped pull together investors for the audacious plan to get Tiger Woods down under for the NZ Open next year. There was an element of philanthropy in backing the event by stumping up the money for Woods' $6 million appearance fee.

"Our initial reaction was that it would be a crying shame if the proposed event did not happen," Mr Birnie said.


3. Lloyd Morrison

This 44 year old Wellingtonian is closely linked with listed infrastructure company Infratil but has a lot of other deals on the go - his own merchant bank Morrison & Co was recently the target of a $60 million takeover offer. (That deal didn't go ahead because it was dependent on another transaction involving Infratil Australia.)

Morrison is also investing in other areas - he has taken a major stake in technology company Global Online Promotions (which is marketing a retail product called Kachingo).

Morrison is a bit of a renaissance man - he has a great love of classical music, even going so far as taking a stake in a CD manufacturing company.

His wedding to longtime partner (and mother of his six children) Julie Nevett was considered the Wellington social event of the year - guests even got their own CDs to take home to remember it by.


4. Michael Lorimer

This affable moneyman was head of business development at Lion Nathan during the Kevin Roberts era and then spent some time at Macquarrie Bank.

More recently he's succeeded in positioning investment bank Grant Samuel (that's Mr Samuel to you) as the firm of choice for independent evaluations for listed companies, capitalising on the fact many accounting firms get ruled out for this kind of work due to conflicts of interest.

Pals say "he's an interesting sort of geezer." Lorimer says: "I'm a bit of an old lefty." (He's not old though - he's just 40-ish.) Lorimer doesn't just mix in finance circles - he's got pals in PR and the media.


5. Rob Cameron

Another one of the ex-Jarden boys (along with Lloyd Morrison, Ray Thomson, Bryce Wilkinson, David Wale etc) Cameron took a big punt taking on the Air New Zealand deal, where his boutique investment bank, Cameron & Co, is acting for the government.

Cameron has been criticised by the left for being a Treasury boffin during the restructuring blitz of the 1980s - but he left the Treasury in 1984.

"Intellectual" is a word that comes up often when friends talk about Cameron, but he's not a schmoozer. "He's not a political animal, not a user of influence," one confidant says.


6. Roy Austin

One of the partners of Northington Partners, along with Rob Challinor and Tim Saunders, Austin handles the firm's mergers and acquisitions work and investment banking transactions. He successfully negotiated a $4 million payout for the Child Health Research Foundation's half share in Diatranz's rights to the technology that is now owned by Howard Paterson's A2 Corporation.

As a lad with an accounting and commerce degree he started out at Deloitte and learned lessons the hard way as a director of ill-fated 1980s company Anzon Investments (now listing again).


7. George Gould

It is tough following in the footsteps of your father when he is the "hard man" D C Gould, of South Island firm Pyne Gould Guinness. But this moneyman managed to prove he could pull off his own deals before ending up back in the bosom of the family company. (Observers expect he will take over from Richard Elworthy and run PGG one day.)

A spell at merchant banker Southpac gave Gould an insight into power companies which he later used in a clever play with Amuri Corp (which became South Eastern Utilities) buying into Wairarapa Electricity.

These days he runs Reid Farmers (since it was bought by Pyne Gould) and also has bought into listed fabric supplier Designer Textiles.

The closest thing we have to landed gentry, Gould still hunts - that's as in "tally ho" with horses and hounds rather than with Swandris and wild pigs.


8. Leigh Davis

Life could come full circle for this ex-Fay Richwhite merchant banker if his company Jump Capital buys into telco Clear. In the mid-1990s he oversaw the Fay Richwhite-brokered New Zealand Rail stake in Clear.

Davis is a complex and intriguing individual - how many other merchant bankers have a past as a significant poet and writer? In 1999 he mounted a large art exhibition, Station of Earth Bound Ghosts, at the Auckland Railway Station.


9. Maurice Kidd

A former manager of Freightways Group this moneyman keeps a low profile but is an indispensable part of the Eric Watson investment machine. He joined Blue Star in 1995 and became Watson's right-hand man.

At sticky times, such as during the Watson-led move to turn listed oil company Southern Petroleum into retirement provider Eldercare, it was Kidd rather than Watson who fronted up to shareholders.


10. Tur Borren

This dealmaker now operates his own company, Demi Holdings, from offices in Auckland's Manukau Rd, but gets credit for restructuring Hellaby Holdings, the former Renouf Corporation.

He is still a shareholder and director of Hellaby but now does his own thing. His knack is finding companies that are fundamentally sound, understanding how to encourage and motivate the management, then leaving them to do their own thing.

He spent a stint at DFC and won an Olympic gold medal playing hockey for New Zealand.

This is the final in the NBR Influence List, a series edited by Deborah Hill Cone

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