In business, I have made many mistakes. The biggest in the Slater Walker days was turning down a stake in North Sea Oil for pounds 1 million that later became worth well over a billion. I thought it was far too speculative!
Slater Walker should have concentrated on making a success of fewer quality companies rather than spinning off new satellites every few weeks, and I should have strengthened the management team as the business grew. Later, in my 'minus millionaire' days, I bought 197 flats in Battersea for pounds 308,000.
I made pounds 1 million on the deal but the flats are now worth over pounds 70 million.
Einstein described compounding as the eighth wonder of the world. I wish I'd known its power much earlier. It was a big swing from being worth pounds 8 million in 1973 to minus pounds 1 million in '76. Problems like this do, however, bring a bonus. I acquired new interests such as writing - childrens' fiction and books on investment - time-share salmon fishing, property and investment, gold mining and, more recently, bio-tech. I enjoy new challenges initially, when my learning curve is at its highest: you usually learn 80% in the first year, 10% in the next, while the last 10% takes a lifetime. I didn't take up bridge and fishing until I was over 40 and wish I'd discovered them as a boy. I also wish I had read many more good books and tried writing a novel. There may still be time.
Jim Slater is chairman of BioProjects International. In 1975, his banking group, Slater Walker, collapsed. He was acquitted of fraud in 1977 and an appeal by the Department of Industry was denied.