The Secret Broker: Send in the Crowns
The Secret Broker
The Secret Broker
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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.
I have been popcorn reading the goings on in the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority inquiry into Crown Casino and I noticed that one of the chaps working for the pesky NSW side of the enquiry is a bloke called Scott Aspinall.
I found this rather ironic, as Aspinall’s was the exclusive Mayfair-based casino where, in the mid 80s, we would gamble away into the wee hours, as a bit of tension relief from the week’s ups and downs and ins and outs.
These were the days when a casino was a proper place to go and try your luck at the roulette table and be surrounded by real gentlemen. The type of gentlemen who would stand when a lady entered the room and open the car door for them, before hopping around to the driver’s door.
They came from old wealth, would have a small flat in Mayfair and a great big ‘F..k off’ house (as how my boss would describe our Senior Partner’s house) in the country, with 30-plus bedrooms and an always leaky roof.
And then there were us!
The old money types could never work out how these ‘yuppies’ ever managed to get membership into their exclusive club casino and lower the tone of the establishment.
The management had to turn a bit of a blind eye to our behaviour and when pushed by one of the cranky old farts, they would explain to them who our membership nominee was.
That would shut them up.
You see, we had managed to game the system a bit, as we knew the casino needed money turning over for them to make a profit. Using this knowledge, we then went about and got all the ducks lined up, so when we did join, we were a shoe-in.
The laws were very different in those days and casinos were not allowed to be listed in the White or Yellow Pages and upon them accepting you and summoning you to come and pick up your membership card, it was illegal to enter the casino for the next 24 hours.
This rule was in place so that if you had turned up drunk to pick up your card, you would/should be sober enough 24 hours later to not lose your shirt. Or at least lose it in a sober manner.
Not being listed meant you could not just find them in the White Pages, so you needed someone who knew where they were secretly located.
Also, to become a member player, you had to be vouched for by someone, who was already a player and with a naturally high social standing.
A Lord, vouching for you, was the golden ticket to getting past the doorman with your application form.
So, just like trading, we knew the rules and went about finding the best way to make them work for us. Bending them a bit but without actually breaking them.
Every year, the partners of my broking house would welcome in a new bunch of undergraduates from Oxford and Cambridge and put them on a 12-month trainee program. This consisted of three months on the London Stock Exchange floor, three months in research, three months in Private Clients and the last three months on the institutional sales desk. Then they would pick the best ones and give them a full-time job in a department that would take them.
Unbeknownst to them, it was all part of a game, where the partners only really wanted to get close to their company chairman father. They really had no interest in employing any silver-spooned children.
Daddy’s contact book was all they wanted and the traineeship was, to them, a calculated financial transaction.
However, we needed those kids and their dads to get us joined up to Aspinall’s, so the ones with the best titles would be befriended by us and if they did the right thing by us, we would have their backs.
As for the other whom we had no need for, they would spend their time running around the floor asking for prices in companies that never existed (Underwater Airlines PLC was a favourite) and urgently calling Mr C. Lion with some prices.
The number given would be London Zoo and we would all fall about laughing and a week later they’d be calling Mr. G Rarf on the same number. Never got old, that one.
The good ones would be worked on and we would gently nudge them towards letting us know who of their friend’s fathers were members of Aspinall’s.
We would then explain to them that, in order for them to progress further, they would need to do research on casino stocks. Clearly, there was no better way than to do that than by joining one.
That afternoon, little Lord Fauntleroy would be filling in 10 (undated) application forms to take home ahead of a weekend of shooting and fishing on Daddy’s estate and where, naturally, our Aspinall’s vouching target just happened to be a guest.
Over the next three months, we would all slowly collect our membership cards and start to rub shoulders with nobility.
Aspinall’s had a doorman, who would open the door for us and arrange taxis home when none were around. The bathrooms were all marble and gold, with a butler to hand you a towel to dry your hands with.
The female croupiers looked like models from a James Bond movie and they could say the word ‘no’ in such a way that it felt honoured to be rejected.
The food. OMG.
You could dine on some of the best food in the world and match it with the finest champagne with which to celebrate (or commiserate).
Our membership cards would get us tables in fully booked restaurants when flashed and into opening nights to the swankiest new bar in town and we always made sure a new potential client would notice it when we were paying for lunch. If they begged for a nomination to join, we would say ’We’ll see’. Ha!
Fast forward to 2020 and to my horror, I find out that Crown now own Aspinall’s.
The same mob who own the
glorified RSL club Perth Casino, with its buffet lunches, poker machines and blinged-out clientele, with matching fake handbags and boobs. This almost made me physically ill. Another bit of traditional history goes to the dogs or in RIO’s case, gets blown up.
What’s next? Coupiers wearing clip on bow ties and the Queen addressing the nation via Zoom? It’s all so sad.
Footnote: Aspinall’s was where Lord Lucan was last seen in public before he disappeared forever and John Aspinall, the founder of the casino, used the profits to save endangered species via his collections of zoos.
It is also where I lost my left shoe in a bet with the doorman, which he insisted on collecting on as he helped me into my cab, that night. Now that’s class.
The Secret Broker can be found on Twitter here @SecretBrokerAU or on email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Feel free to contact him with your best stock tips and ideas.
PS: When you type in F..K Off into Word, some dots appear underneath it. When you click on the dots it suggests ‘Go Away’ as a better term to use! So according to Microsoft, my senior partner owned a big ‘Go Away’ house.
Oh Bill, you’re killing me.