A Swiss banking drama on Lake Zurich
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We know some of you come to DD for the drama of finance. So for today’s item you have Credit Suisse to thank for delivering a spectacle worthy of a spy novel (much better than Jamie Dimon’s recent film pitch).
A man and his wife are being chased by three corporate spies down the picturesque streets of Zurich, by car and on foot. They reach the Swiss National Bank in the city’s charming old town where a physical confrontation ensues. At least that is Iqbal Khan’s (above right) version of events.
The former head of wealth management at Credit Suisse was being tailed by a spy firm called Investigo on orders from his former employer after he abruptly left for its rival UBS. The bank was trailing Khan on suspicions that he would take Credit Suisse clients and employees with him.
Hiring a private detective (Credit Suisse insists there was only one) to trail a former employee isn’t against the law, but in the staid world of Swiss banking it’s an extreme measure and one that seems to have backfired on the bank.
So why risk it? There’s a personal and professional element to this narrative.
First, wealth management is one of the few areas where European banks are making some money and it’s a speciality for Swiss lenders.
As the FT’s John Gapper writes this week, capital constraints have squeezed profits at almost every other division, particularly investment banking, but wealth management doesn’t require much capital and returns on equity are high.
That makes private bankers a desirable lot, not to mention those who have built close relationships over the years, with some advising on as much as $1bn of fortunes.
Still, plenty of wealth managers leave their jobs and don’t end up in a scuffle outside Switzerland’s most important financial institution with a spy (or spies) that has been hired by their former employer.
Relations between Credit Suisse chief executive Tidjane Thiam and Khan had been souring for a while. The pair worked well together at first and Khan was considered a “star” by his boss. But there are few ways to vex your superior more than by buying and redeveloping a house immediately next to theirs.
The inevitable happened. Thiam and Khan fell out over a dispute about some trees planted on the Thiam property. The confrontation (over trees!) almost got physical according to some reports and Khan’s wife had to separate them.
Khan started plotting his exit from Credit Suisse and informally met or was interviewed by several international and Swiss banks before landing a job at UBS. The controversy shows no signs of ending however, and it doesn’t look like either party are willing to hold out an olive branch.
The FT’s Stephen Morris explains how the drama unfolded here.
Gupta gets by with a little help from his friends
Sanjeev Gupta, the UK industrialist who turns 48 today, loves to celebrate in style.
At the start of the month, he hosted a lavish party at the mansion he is renting in Sydney, according to the Australian Financial Review. And last week the man dubbed Britain’s “saviour of steel” was seen on a whistle-stop tour to mark the purchase of seven steelworks in mainland Europe by his Liberty House group.
But on that tour, he faced tough questions from a TV interviewer about his funding, including how Liberty had paid for the European steel plants.
“From our own equity and a little bit of debt,” Gupta replied, as flags with his corporate logos flapped in the breeze behind him.
We know DD readers want a more specific answer than that. A new deep dive into the opaque financing underpinning Gupta’s business empire from the FT’s Michael Pooler and Robert Smith provides exactly that.
Need a teaser? Their story reveals that Liberty signed a new €2.2bn debt facility to fund the purchase of the steelworks from ArcelorMittal, three times the €740m price he paid for the assets.
Need more? Instead of a conventional bank, Gupta turned to an Australian financier whose meteoric rise has been closely intertwined with the Indian-born businessman, Lex Greensill (who is also a confidante of David Cameron,former UK prime minister).
His eponymous firm, Greensill Capital, is backed by the Japanese technology conglomerateSoftBank’s Vision Fund, which put $800m into the business at a $3.5bn valuation earlier this year.
To discuss the story further or if you’d like to share your thoughts, feel free to contact DD’s Robert Smith here.
Not so fast Peloton
JPMorgan Chase has been in the news more than it would like this week, and that was before Peloton’s listing on Thursday. The buzzy exercise bike company did little to help matters.
After JPMorgan bankers priced Peloton’s offering at $29 per share — top of its range — the company opened at $27 and traded as low as $24.75, or a drop of 14.7 per cent, before closing 11.2 per cent lower at $25.76.
Peloton’s slide recalls SmileDirectClub’s flotation, in which the teeth straightening upstart’s shares dropped 28 per cent after pricing above expectations on the advice of JPMorgan. Both offerings raised more than $1bn for the lossmaking debutantes.
That comes after the shelved WeWork IPO — also led by JPMorgan — which will rank as one to forget for Jamie Dimon.
Lucky for Peloton, its poor public debut was overshadowed by Endeavor, owner of Hollywood’s largest talent agency. The company pulled its offering on Thursday after failing to entice investors, even with a more than 30 per cent discount on its expected range. JPMorgan can relax — Goldman Sachs was taking the lead on that one.
The fashion deal heralded as pure ‘magic’
Dealmaking is alive and well in Paris as the months-long unveiling of designer fashion collections builds to its climax.
No, French luxury goods houses LVMH and Kering weren’t haggling over some hot new brand to add to their portfolios. Front rows have been abuzz over the latest from Dries Van Noten, the famed designer and member of the Antwerp Six, and his collaboration with former LVMH-backed designer Christian Lacroix.
This wasn’t your typical capsule collection, the sort that H&M and Target have flanked over the past decade. Those often seem like little more than self-serving exchanges: the young designer gets exposure, while the big brand gets something fresh to hawk to consumers.
No, what Van Noten and Lacroix have achieved is something greater. The FT has likened it to magic. The New York Times called it “the collaboration to end all collaborations”. DD readers would be wise to take a look — there’s a lot to like — because it will make for good cocktail conversation the next time you’re at the ballet, opera or good dinner party. Or even . . . a DD event for that matter.
Fulvio Conti has quit as chairman of Telecom Italia in a move that could ease tensions between two of the group’s largest shareholders, Vivendi and Elliott Management.
Matt Nord and David Sambur have been promoted to lead Apollo Global Management’s $77bn private equity business, according to The Wall Street Journal. The two longtime partners will take over day-to-day operations from Apollo co-president Scott Kleinman.
Mohamed El-Erian, the former chief executive of bond group Pimco, is joining Barclays as a non-executive director at the start of next year. More here.
Rachel Osborne, the chief financial officer who helped steer Debenhams through a complicated pre-pack administration and restructuring, is leaving the group after a year to take up the same role at Ted Baker. More here.
Jason Ng, a lawyer working for BNP Paribas in Hong Kong, has left the French bank after he posted comments on social media in support of protests in the city, provoking a furious response from Beijing. Full story here.
What a rollercoaster In the sleepy town of Margate resides Britain’s oldest surviving amusement park, Dreamland. However, it’s become somewhat of a nightmare for hedge fund Arrowgrass Capital, which is having a hard time selling the assets around the park as it returns money to investors. (Bloomberg)
Another brick in the wall Alphaville’s Thomas Hale looks at why private school fees have become so high. One surprising theory: parents haven non-monetary incentives to keep their kids in the same school. (FT Alphaville)
Capital commitments Ellie Cachette has promised to funnel $1bn of European pension money to more than a dozen US venture capital funds. So far, at least nine haven’t received their cheques. (BBG)
Run on momentum stocks Is punishing a surprising group (Wall Street Journal)
Due Diligence is written by Arash Massoudi, Javier Espinoza and Robert Smith in London, James Fontanella-Khan, Ortenca Aliaj, Sujeet Indap, Eric Platt, Lindsay Fortado and Mark Vandevelde in New York, Miles Kruppa in San Francisco and Don Weinland in Beijing.
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