In my previous post, I talked about working at my Dad’s company. That was called General Guarantee Corporation and was a subsidiary of the the then massive Great Universal Stores; those of my age will remember the GUSy catalogues, from which you could buy clothes et all.
That company all started because my father, who was working for Peat Marwick, was asked by the late Isaac Wolfson, the founder of GUS and an umbrella salesman, to go and sort out one of his companies that was in financial trouble. My father duly did and all of the money that he collected was put in a case under his bed. At the end of the day, Isaac Wolfson got every penny of his investment back.
General Guarantee Corporation, or GGC as it was named for short, blossomed and became a big player in the market. So successful was it that my Dad was appointed to the main board of GUS as group finance director.
There was a fledgling company, called Overdrive, which was a joint venture between Wells Fargo and GUS. It went very well for a while but due to Overdrive’s founder’s (David Elias) underhand tactics, it got into financial trouble and, as group finance director, my father was put in charge of its sale.
That sale went drastically wrong and Sir Leonard Wolfson, who replaced Sir Isaac, blamed my father for what had happened. The day of the dressing down, in front of the whole board, my father drove back from London with a flat tyre but hadn’t noticed it. His secretary, Win Boden, found him shaking at his desk. He was taken home by his colleague, Derek Whittick, who has left us and put to bed. The doctor came quickly and it was concluded that my father had had a major nervous breakdown.
He was then taken to the Priory in London but so bad was he that we were not allowed to see him for at least three months. After this time, I drove my Dad’s Daimler up to the Priory to collect my Dad for a weekend at home. I met Richard O’Sullivan there.
When driving back, we had not gone 100 yards when a car pulled out from a side road; my father screamed and nearly punched a hole in the roof; his whole body jolted. I had to wait for a while, so that he could calm down, before setting off again. Few words were said on the trip but the corner of my eye was always looking to check that my Dad was okay.
The weekend trips continued but it was clear to both Mum and I that he was a different man. Even though my Dad had treated my mother so horribly before either my brother and I were even born (and put her in hospital with her own nervous breakdown), she did love him and was worried for him.
So Mum and I cooked up a plan to get him a dog, so that he had something to concentrate his mind onto. We would make an excuse to leave the house in my Fiesta to go and see the breeder. We had many to choose from but chose the one with the biggest paws.
When the breeder said that it was time, we made another excuse and went to collect him. We then asked Dad to come out into the drive and, as soon as he saw Barnaby (due to his paws), his eyes lit up and he actually smiled for once in so many months. He was so happy.
We set up a little green fence so that Barnaby could not go far and for hours and days on end, my Dad would play with him; it was wonderous for my Mum and I to see.
Barnaby, like any dog, became a major part of the family and every night, Dad would take him out for his walk. Maybe Dad just wanted to be alone with him so that his damaged brain could just work things out. We knew their night routine and if Dad was too late, Mum would start to panic and despatched me to go and look for him. I knew the route as occasionally, I had walked with Dad and Barnaby, in utter silence.
Over many years, my Dad got better and better, to the extent that he started Premium Credit, with his old finance director from GGC (and my boss), Leon Stoffberg, with finance coming from HSBC Insurance Brokers. It did what it said on the tin, it financed insurance premiums, first just for businesses and then for ordinary people like you and I. The very first client was Alexander and Alexander, one of the biggest brokers in the city. My Dad had used his old contacts from his GUSy days to great effect.
It got very big and, ironically, had started to become an embarrassment for HSBC, because they were insurance brokers too. Clients started to question as to where PC’s and HSBC’s loyalties lied. It was thus agreed to do a management buy out and to withdraw from the HSBC group.
The problem was that PC had no financial heavyweights and that is when I came into the picture. My father suggested me to Leon Stoffberg, the chairman, as I was unhappy with my current job and the totally withdrew from the process, including voting as to whether I should join or not. The interviews were grueling but I was given the job; two votes to one.
As the buyout was well advanced, I had a lot of catching up to do. On my first day, I went to see Leon, who then took me to my little office and presented me with 2 feet of paperwork and “bibles”. He told me that I had two weeks to understand all of it and to draft banking arrangements for the whole scheme, as it was a securitisation.
I worked hand in glove with Leon and night after night we would discuss the arrangements. Then one night, I had a “petit mal”, when I just phased out for a few minutes; I could hear him speak but could not respond. In hindsight, that was a warning sign.
He sent me up to the company doctor, who came to the conclusion that I had suffered an epileptic fit, caused by the scar tissue that had formed over the years, from my tumour operation. He gave me some drugs and told me some dos and donts.
A few years went by and there was a calamity. One of the insurance brokers had been fraudulent, Independent Insurance Brokers. The complexity of the law meant that we had already paid out for the premiums to the broker but could not collect from the customers.
It nearly sent us into liquidation but through hours and hours of late nights, we managed to work our way through it but we lost millions.
Leon had gone by then and had been replaced by Graham Puttergill, Leon’s old boss from HSBC. I had worked directly with Leon but Graham had put an armchair in between me and Graham. So I now had to report to Ken Garrod.
The company continued to grow and my small team in the finance department was struggling. I asked for more staff, again and again but Ken Garrod just asked me to write a report to justify it. I wrote 4 reports and every time, I was refused extra staff.
So, I took on the load myself and worked longer and longer into the night. One day, I snapped and walked out of the office; I could take no more. I refused to go back to work and had to see my GP, who diagnosed a nervous breakdown. To cut a long story short, I was in the Priory for a year and never returned to my job. Everything that I had studied for and had worked for was now in the bin, all totally gone.
I was in the wilderness for many years, living off the pathetic compensation that I had been granted (5 years worth of income for a career that was over for life) and then I met my Liesel, who sadly died on me two years later, because of Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma of the brain.
My father is a hypocrite because he went through something that was much worse then I endured but he did have another career and a life; he had a wife and me to support him.
But he has turned evil and considers me to be imperfect and does whatever he can do, either himself or through others, to make my life more miserable than it already is; he is an absolute bastard and so are the others who back him up and do his bidding.