The Secret Broker: Something about bubbles, something about frothy markets. No more questions, please…
The Secret Broker
The Secret Broker
After 35 years of stockbroking for some of the biggest houses and investors in Australia and the UK, the Secret Broker is regaling Stockhead readers with his colourful war stories — from the trading floor to the dealer’s desk.
As interest rates in the UK hurtled upwards, heading towards 6% and a submarine guided by a Bluetoothed Playstation remote control hurtled downwards, I received the most bizarre letter.
It was only last week that I was talking about leaving the UK to come to Australia, without a forwarding address, when BINGO! I get a letter out of the blue looking for me.
It had ended up in my brother’s letter box in the UK and he forwarded it to me via email.
My mentioning last week of no forwarding address was obviously tongue in cheek but this was the real deal.
The letter wasn’t chasing me for money but was from a firm of lawyers called Georgeson, who are based in Bristol, near Bath and they were trying to “reunite me with a forgotten asset”.
Somehow, they had managed to track down my brother, via some clever Sherlock Holmes detective work.
At first, we all thought it must be a scam, until I noticed at the bottom of the letter that it stated that Georgeson was owned by Computershare Investor Services PLC, so I immediately knew that it was about shares.
I hadn’t lived in the last known address that they had for me for over 40 years and yet somehow they had found my brother at his current UK address and were trying to put the pieces together.
So, between 1980 and before I left home to shack up with my own real life Maggie May in 1986, I must have acquired some shares and never sold them.
This was unusual for me, as at this time of my life, it was all about using credit cards and overdrafts to really gear myself up, as I made my way to becoming a share trading millionaire, whilst just out of school shorts.
Living at home and living the dream was the theme at that time and falling asleep at the end of the railway line after a hard day of trading the market – and propping up the bar till last orders – sometimes caught me out.
Catching the last train home and then getting kicked off at the last station at the very end of the line would result in this wannabe millionaire phoning up his father to get a lift home.
“Get a minicab home,” would be the gruff tone at the end of the phone, before he hung up on me. Then, “At least a bullseye for that fare son” would result in another phone call home and so a pyjama dressed rescue mission could be locked in, with my mother’s support.
“Poor lad. End of the line. You’ll just have to pick him up,” she would tell my father.
At this time, there were no mobiles so I had to make sure I had enough coins down my sock for the phone box. I knew my parents had a phone in their bedroom (that was as posh in those days as the Automatic Teasmade), I would just hang on ringing till they answered it.
A ‘bullseye’ in those days was £50 and as a five minute phone call was 5 pence, it was a no-brainer.
Hence, thirty minutes later I would be picked by my own private driver in a nicely warmed up Granada Ghia and much to my driver’s annoyance, I would jump in the back and give a passing two-fingered salute to the minicab drivers for trying to rip off this ‘junior Warren Buffett’ in the making.
After getting the email from my brother, that night I went to bed racking my brains, trying to remember what company shares I would have held onto 40 years ago.
As I spooned up to Mrs Broker, I whispered in her ear that if the shares are worth £500,000, we could go to the Bahamas for six months and get out of the cold. We both fell asleep, dreaming of the sun.
Unfortunately for her, I shot up bolt like at 3.00am and shouted out ‘Youngs Brewery!’ and then promptly fell back to sleep, leaving her now wide awake and wondering if I was having another one of my ‘brewery tour’ dreams.
But that was it.
It could only be Youngs Brewery shares, as I would have traded every other share.
But not these. These were special shares. They had special powers.
If you owned enough Youngs Brewery shares you could attend their yearly AGM and after all matters were closed off, it was a shareholder free for all, with as much beer and food as you could fit in for the next three hours.
They would be the only AGM which I could remember arriving at, but never leaving. A kind of ‘Hotel California’ moment but instead of the bright colours and warmth of California, it was more dark cold days in a dreary London hall.
I had got 10 of us together and bought enough shares for all of us to qualify and split the certificate 10 ways.
This meant that once a year, the 10 of us would meet up, attend the AGM and have a free piss up.
What a return on our investment!
If any shareholder had dared stand up and ask old Mr Young a question, they would be booed at, as this was prolonging the end of the meeting and our free jugs of warm ‘Youngs London Special’.
I think that Gerry Harvey’s team could use this strategy, so Gerry wouldn’t have to squirm when shareholders once a year ask him a curly one.
When Monday night arrived, I promptly called Georgeson and my hunch was right. It was my Youngs shares that they were trying to reunite me with, all 40 of them.
The £500,000 was in fact £400 worth of shares and I reckon I would have paid 40 quid for them. Over 40 years and the company is still going and my shares had risen just like the tax on beer, 10 times in value.
The reason why I had lost track of them was because I had agreed to automatically have any dividends paid to the charity The Vintners’ Foundation and agreed that no annual report was to be posted out.
I even found out, via a stock forum, that I am not the only one though as the forum mentions deceased accounts. I’m now not sure how many out of the 10 of us would still be alive or how many would now be getting handouts from the charity that our dividends supported.
I found this quote from an obituary written about John Young, who died in 2006, after becoming the chairman of the company in 1962.
“The company’s annual meetings became lavish and legendary events with the chairman wearing such trappings as boxing gloves or a beekeeper’s hat to emphasise a specific point, though the events were scaled down in recent years.”
Four hundred quid won’t even buy me a plane ticket to their next AGM. I shall, however, wallow in the memories of how it used to be, dreaming of becoming a millionaire and having my own pyjama wearing driver, all whilst still living at home.
Ah, those were the days.
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