The Secret Broker: I once shared a bath with Alan Bond
The Secret Broker
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Not many males alive today could share this information and some of you will be thinking that a broker will do anything for an order. But the above headline was once my claim to fame… until sentiment changed and it was quietly allowed to wash away down the plug hole.
It all came about when the boiler in my flat had broken, so I had no hot water over the weekend and when I arrived for our usual Sunday lunch time session with the boys at The Phene pub in Chelsea, they made me sit outside because I was a bit on the nose.
The Phene, for the uninitiated, of which there will be many in Australia, was a well-known haunt of the rich and famous from West London.
I wasn’t one of them, but George Best certainly was, often.
It was November, so it was freezing and inside was nice and warm and my layers of clothing were making me sweat, which was not helping my situation. One of the boy’s girlfriends came out and said that I could use the bath at the place she was looking after, just around the corner.
So off I went, made use of the enormous bath and all the Harrods toiletries and finished off with copious amounts of aftershave from the world’s biggest bottle of Brut and promptly arrived back at the pub to join everyone inside.
I threw back the keys to the girl and said thanks. She said “Don’t worry, Alan won’t mind.”
I said “Alan?” and she replied “Yes, Alan Bond.”
Turns out this was his bolthole in London and he had left the night before and she was in charge of looking after it.
Well, that explained the Tim Tams and Vegemite in the fridge and come to think of it, the Brut as well.
We all looked at each other in shock as Alan Bond had, a couple of days before just paid Sotheby’s a world record $US53.9m for Vincent van Gogh’s Irises and I was wearing his aftershave.
Word soon got out, past the walls of the pub, and by the time I arrived to work on Monday, there was on my desk a bunch of irises, a bar of soap and some red hair dye.
“Boy,” I thought, “these guys are sharp”, and I dined out on this story for a couple of years until… well, the wheels started to fall off in the land of Alan Bond.
As it happened, my good old bathing buddy Alan did not have enough money to actually settle the purchase of Irises. Bond and Sotheby’s had colluded to create an artificially high benchmark for a painting and create confidence in the art market.
If the news had got out at the time, that a client had defaulted on a world record price, the art market would have collapsed. So together, they managed to keep an artificially high art market going whilst Sotheby’s “special” clients were able to sell into it.
In 1989, the press got hold of the story and prices crashed, along with my after-dinner story.
As everyone always asks me about insider trading, I always re-tell this story (minus the bath bit), as it is not only the stock market where it occurs – though everyone thinks it’s an obvious candidate.
I always come to the conclusion that they obviously have never owned any artwork or a racehorse and just like the heading in this story, things are never as they seem.
Though next week I will touch on insider trading in the stock market. Have your notepad ready.
The Secret Broker can be found on Twitter here @SecretBrokerAU. Feel free to contact him with your best stock tips, to help finance his ongoing consumption of the very finest single malts and cuban cigars.