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Mjolnir

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Join date : 2010-10-09
Location : London, England

PostSubject: The Boss is Back   Mon Jan 17, 2011 5:18 am

The Boss is Back

William Nash looks at the recent happenings at Shand Holdings and asks why Neil McIntyre left, and what David Shand’s return means.


Christmas 2010 was a turbulent time for all concerned at Shand Holdings. With a major deal in Spain still in the final stages of agreement, the multi-national investment juggernaut was hit with the shock resignation of the man who had, for the previous near three years, had his hands on the day-to-day reins. Neil Mcintyre walked from the company in early December, seemingly without anyone inside the opulent glass tower of the company’s London headquarters having an inkling that it was on the cards. As if McIntyre’s exit were not surprise enough, the news that the chairman, none other than the enigmatic man-mountain of David Shand, was returning to his operational role in the company was enough to set all sorts of rumours running –not least because many wild rumours had been circulating already about what was happening with Shand, after he had not been seen in public for many months.


However, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised at such a dramatic turn of events coming out of Shand Holdings. This is a company that has always enjoyed an aggressive portfolio of interests, and which has never been afraid of a confrontation or corporate fight. Shand Holdings was itself founded in a bitter power battle between Shand and his father, and since day one the company has been ruthless in its pursuit of growth in both financial and influential circles. The fact that the company chairman used to spend his spare time in the canrivalised world of professional wrestling seems somehow to jar much less than you think it ought to. Clearly David Shand is a guy who understands the dramatic, and who likes a fight.


So what of McIntyre? Not too many know that Neil’s association with Shand goes right back to their school days. McIntyre was at Eaton a year behind Shand, and while they weren’t reported to have been great friends, they certainly knew of each other. McIntyre made a career for himself in the law, initially with the large London firm of Farrell and Hackett, before splitting off to start his own company in the mid 1990s. Its interesting that he made this move at roughly the same time Shand’s company started its corporate onslaught, and the timing has lead some to speculate that Shand bankrolled McIntyre’s early efforts in order to have a lawyer in his back pocket.


However he got started, McIntyre made the most of his business, growing his firm to take on both sides of the Atlantic, and becoming one of just a small number of lawyers to be qualified to practice in both the UK and the US. Although they do work for other clients, McIntyre and Associates’ biggest client has always been Shand Holdings, and McIntyre has been at the eye of the storm whenever David has made a move. It would be wrong to suggest Shand ever saw McIntyre as an equal – he was very much an employee – but he was one of the inner circle of employees to whom David would at least listen.


So what soured the relationship? Well perhaps the answer comes from the changes which took place in early 2008. At that time, David Shand took the decision to move into semi-retirement. As well as hanging up his spandex wrestling tights, Shand dissolved himself from day to day management responsibility for Shand Holdings. Some were shocked that he named McIntyre as his new man, rather than appointing from within his stock of well seasoned executives and Vice Presidents. But Shand always liked to keep his executives on their toes, and be dropping in someone seen very much as having the direct link to Shand’s ear was his way of doing precisely that.


Shand settled back into an easy life, spending more time with his family, involving himself in charity work, and even writing two very successful books – one on business management, and the other on the wrestling industry. After his first marriage ended in tragedy, he seemed determined to enjoy his new family, and content to sit back and enjoy life and let someone else worry.


And McIntyre initially proved to be an effective day to day captain for the ship. He may have been a lawyer by trade, but he clearly had a businessman’s head as well, and reports from inside the building suggested he had a firm grip on where he needed to apply pressure on Shand Holdings in order to get things done. Not quite as direct and penetrating as Shand, he preferred a more persuasive style of leadership, but the facts can’t be argued that under his control the company continued to thrive through 2008 and 2009 despite the global financial crisis, expanding into new markets and adding a substantial telecoms wing through a deal which Shand had set in train before he left. All the signs were good, and no doubt Shand was sitting with his feet up in his Oxfordshire mansion happily counting the profits.


However, in 2010 things started to change. Firstly, McIntyre refused to press ahead with a deal on land use in the North West of Chile. The opportunity for Shand Holdings to acquire the land lapsed before the company could complete on the deal, and the land went unbought until a Canadian company stepped in a month later. Mere weeks afterwards it was revealed that the land contained a previously unreported substantial deposit of a certain silicone which is used in the construction of airline parts. As a consequence, the value of the land increased dramatically, and McIntyre was left in a position of watching the train leave while he stood at the station – the train in question carrying an estimated $US90m (£59m) in profit that he could have turned around in a few months.


More recently, in late November last year, it came to light that Shand Holdings had been negotiating on a substantial cross-cutting telecoms and power deal in Spain, but that once again there had been hold-up which had prevented the deal being completed. The mere fact that the details had come to light at all were surprising, given the sensitivities of the deal and the fact that those details were still being hammered out. Predictably, the markets ran with the news – as did several companies who would have been affected by the deal – and while it has now gone through, its understood that the terms were not as favourable to Shand Holdings as they might have been.


Now, these mistakes need to be put into perspective. The Chile deal didn’t cost the company anything (though by the same token it didn’t make them anything either) and the Spanish deal is estimated to still be worth $US6bn (£4bn) in profits. Shand Holdings continues to generate huge financial returns, even in the very tight financial markets the world finds itself in at the moment. In fact, it should be repeated and noted – if we can return once again to the nautical metaphors – that McIntyre steered the ship past every one of the crushing icebergs that sunk so many companies after the bomb dropped at the end of 2008.


So while his time in charge may receive a mixed report, it’s a mainly positive one. However, it seems that mainly positive isn’t good enough for Shand – a man with a low tolerance for mediocrity. Sources close to the chairman say McIntyre had a number of very uncomfortable meetings with Shand following the collapse of the Chile deal, during which Shand made it known he regarded such “failures” as “utterly unacceptable”.


The fact that a similar delay seems to have taken the edge of the Spanish deal might now be an indication of why McIntyre has walked.


That’s if he walked at all, rather than was pushed.


Many are saying that Neil has not left Shand Holdings through his own choice, but rather has in fact been curtly dismissed. Certainly the exit was extremely quick, and the timing to coincide with Shand’s return is curious. So in a classic chicken and egg scenario of what came first – Shand’s decision to return, or McIntyre’s exit – most seem to agree that Shand felt the Spanish situation was a step too far, and returned precisely to oust McIntyre.


However, this writer doesn’t believe that Shand would step back to the front line just simply to remove Mcintyre from his position. Shand could simply have dismissed Neil and replaced him with another of the stuffed suits had that been all his return was about. He has no shareholders to pacify, and the company structure means he doesn’t answer to a board. There was therefore no need for him to be so visible again unless that was what he actually wanted. Its more likely that Shand is back because he has plans. He may not step into the wrestling ring very often, but he’s up for that fight again.


What makes that fact all the more intriguing is the aforementioned absence of Shand from the public eye in the preceding months. Never one – unlike his wrestling protégé and fellow businessman Myron Fox - to seek the spotlight or be a friend of the glitter press, Shand could nevertheless be spotted on occasion in the right places if those interested knew where to look. He owns several restaurants around the world, a couple of hotels, and has various hobbies which place him around the globe at specific times. In fact, for the past couple of years it was easier than ever to find his location as he spent most of his time at his sprawling Montana ranch.


But then in the late Summer last year, Shand appeared to have simply dropped off the radar and disappeared without a trace. No-one at Shand Holdings had any idea where the chairman was, and anyone that asked McIntyre was apparently told never to ask again. His hotels and restaurants went unvisited, his other houses empty. Half confirmed rumours persist that he was sighted at various locations around the globe during this time –one preposterous suggestion was he was seen fighting in a bar in Alaska - but they are too vague to give much credence to. Wherever Shand was though, it was clear he didn’t want attention.


Could Shand have been setting up another business deal, perhaps in the former Eastern block where its rumoured he may look next? Could he have been acting to counter the damage the delays to the Spanish deal did to the company. In fact, is it perhaps possible that those delays were actually a cleverly worked diversionary tactic in order to mask what Shand was really up to?


If so, did Shand deliberately set McIntyre up as a patsy, allowing him to fail and then dumping him? Was it a payback for his failures in Chile? It may sound ruthless for a man to turn on his old friend in such a way, but those who doubt Shand capable of such a thing might ask Myron Fox how Shand treats his friends – even for the cartoon world of professional wrestling you might call their relationship tempestuous – and Shand has crushed many many more beneath the heels of his immaculately tailored Italian loafers.


So now Shand is back in charge and this writer believes we can expect to see an aggressive change of direction in Shand Holdings. As mentioned above, moves further into the Eastern block seem likely as this was an area Shand was known to be keen to pursue before, and provides a natural business bridge between his European and Asian interests. Telecommunications seems to be an area he will look to exploit, and with China as a potentially huge market in the next few years, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Shand Holdings also head in that direction.


Shand may decided to jettison some of the North American wing of the company which, although still profitable, has been hit hardest by the ongoing financial issues caused by the collapse of the sub-prime market. A likely taker for the property investment wing would be Banner holdings, and their chairman, Bruce Armstrong, is known to have a good working relationship with Shand. However, a more aggressive stance would be for the company to go on the attack in North America, and an opportunity does exist to take over the struggling Holmes group of companies. Many experts estimate the break-up value of Holmes’ current stock as much more than the purchase price, and Shand could make a success of those markets left behind if the company folded.


Aside from the business direction, we can expect further personnel changes. Certainly we can expect McIntyre’s exit from Shand Holdings to be just the start. McIntyre of course didn’t work alone in making those decisions and incurring Shand’s displeasure, and those in the well appointed upper management offices might have some justification in feeling nervous as we head into the new year. The man once know to wrestling fans as “The Reaper” may have his scythe out for his own employees.


Whatever Shand ultimately decides to do with the company, now that he’s back we can be sure it won’t be dull!

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