Inside Story/By Toady.
It has always struck Toady as outrageously unfair that those with the laudable foresight to desert sinking ships should be compared with an unattractive species of rodent. With what diminutive mammal, then, must we compare Lord Cayzer, who disembarks and re-embarks with the alacrity of a man a quarter of his age?
In June 1987, the then 77-year-old but still highly buoyant peer donned his water-wings and leapt nimbly from the stern of British and Commonwealth, the once-great shipping business founded by his grandfather, Charles, a century before.
Readers of this authoritative journal will recall that in so doing, Lord Cayzer made what may very probably have been the deal of the decade: the family cashed in its shipping chips for £427 million, a not inconsiderable sum. It was made to seem even less inconsiderable when, not four months later, Black Monday wiped several noughts and a comma or two off the value of British and Commonwealth.
Shortly afterwards, the ex-Cayzer consortium, which had a high City profile, performed its well-known impression of the Titanic ("Iceberg? What iceberg?"), watched from a distance by the self-same Lord Cayzer from the comfort of a mink-lined lifeboat.
While various parts of his ex-empire sank ignominiously beneath the waves, the nautical peer then paddled unhurriedly about picking up desirable survivors: old favourites like British Air Transport (owners of Air UK) and a bargain-basement, £33.5 million 45% stake in Bristow Helicopters, first bought by British and Commonwealth for rather less in the '60s. Oh, and let us not forget the large chunk of Exco International - a money brokers that had multiplied in value 100 times during the first five years of its previous Cayzer ownership - acquired from British and Commonwealth's administrators for a titch over £20 million.
Even after this little spree, however, the Grace Darling of the Stock Exchange still has the odd bob or two to spend on his main remaining concern, Caledonia Investments. Not unnaturally, given his ancestry and the family tradition, he has decided to go back into a business that has served him and his forbears passingly well in the past: shipping. Last month, Caledonia led a £15-million, 81% consortium buy-out of the Hong Kong-based Wallem, one of the world's largest ship management and services groups.
Toady's men, well concealed in the Cayzer bunker, report that the Lord has plans to take Wallem back into mainstream shipbroking, a pursuit it has tended to ignore of late. Senior management are understood to be saving up for swimming lessons.