1973: the year of the oil crisis, the secondary banking collapse, the three day working week and the collapse of the stock market. In a riotous ride through the City of London we meet the characters and events that filled the social and City pages of the press in that roller-coaster year.
Guy Magnus, an ambitious young share dealer, makes a daring takeover bid in the face of opposition from the City Establishment. Will he follow their rules, or his own: never to fall in love with a deal? Will he come to repent his challenge to the powers-that-be? Is Guy’s story fiction or fact? Was a Norfolk Broads canal boat really moored in the marina of Monte Carlo? Did a Henry Moore sculpture really become the most expensive work of art in the world? And did a bet for a lunch at Maxim’s for the first to make a million, Guy or his friend and rival Harry Griffin, bring a merchant bank to the verge of collapse?
THE SHELL COLLECTOR tells a cautionary tale of the City when its buccaneering spirit was at a peak. Whether true or false, it is never less than entertaining.
Born in Leeds and educated at Rugby School and Oxford University, Robert Lyons spent seventeen years working for retailing conglomerate UDS Group plc., starting as a door-to door credit salesman in Glasgow before rising to run the parent company’s property management and development operations at its London head office. In 1974, he spent three months at the Harvard Business School on its Program for Management Development. On returning to London, he was appointed to the Group board, and to the board of Allders Department Stores, of which he became chairman in 1979. In 1983 the UDS Group was taken over by Hanson Trust plc, and Lyons left corporate life behind to move into property investment. Married with two children and six grandchildren, Lyons has lived in Highgate, north London, since 1968.
Do I understand how the stock market wworks? No. Did I enjoy this book? Yes.
Eminently readable despite all the financial terms and the buying and selling, this story of two friends raking in a somewhat unstable fortune on the trading floor, pulling off bigger and bigger investments and sales was really enjoyable.
The title refers to Roman emperor Caligula, famously thought to be completely bonkers, imploring his guards to gather shells, claiming they were priceless treasure.
In a way that’s what Guy is doing, gathering in worthless companies and offloading them on gullible people.
It’s a all a bit Wall Street esque but set in the City of London, once the world’s trading centre. The author’s own history in the world of finance and big business lends an authority to his fluid writing and the interesting and somewhat comic figures Guy and Harry encounter make this a very fascinating read.
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