Ian Hannam: from mining mergers to Covid-19 testing stations © Reuters

Ian Hannam: From M&A to PPE

The verb “to pivot” is commonly heard in business circles, as companies seek to adjust to the new normal. But there’s pivoting and there’s what corporate financier Ian Hannam has done: he’s turned from offering advice on huge mining mergers to setting up testing stations to check for Covid-19 antibodies. The former JPMorgan banker now has his own advisory business, Hannam & Partners — and one of those partners, Hamish Clegg, has become chief executive of Pyser Testing, which began operations this week at the Honourable Artillery Company in the City of London. Former squaddies, already healthcare trained, are doing double tests (an instant one and a follow up, endorsed by Public Health England) at a seemingly competitive £120 a go. Hannam has told friends he’s convinced a second wave of the virus will hit us hard. So he’s also taken the step of buying an actual Chinese mask factory, the innards of which are currently being transported to the UK. A “clean room” awaits at Shipton on Stour to commence manufacturing and a BSI Kitemark has been applied for. Let’s just hope the dealmaker’s wrong.

Tom Blomfield: Monzo’s motto

As a millennial-friendly digital bank, Monzo knows that “how we communicate changes how people feel about us”. And those communication skills were on display this week as it sought to spin a smaller-than-hoped-for fundraising to customers who first backed it through crowdfunding. This investment “is great news for Monzo”, it said in an email, not mentioning the resulting 40 per cent drop in valuation. Still, while its retail backers have given up some of their gains, at least none of the venture capital firms who overpaid last summer will lose out. Firms that coughed up £13 per share last June, such as Y Combinator, are being given extra stock “to put them in the same position as if they’d invested then at a price of £7.71”. Monzo co-founder Tom Blomfield used to say “We’re here to make money work for everyone”. Clearly for some more than others.

Eric Partaker: Mexican warrior

What next for issuers of mini bonds, now the City regulator has banned the marketing of their dangerously tasty returns? Eric Partaker, co-founder of Mexican food chain Chilango, once raised money using “burrito bonds” offering a piquant 8 per cent interest. But punters found them as hard to stomach as Habanero chilli peppers when they were converted into less valuable equity, in a restructuring. Partaker insists he has grown stronger since inflicting the financial equivalent of Montezuma’s revenge. He now offers executive coaching as a self-styled “Wartime CEO”. He says: “In times of crisis, some retreat, while others advance . . . Now is the time to lead.” Burrito bond investors may wish to advance to the bathroom. 

Vernon & Shirley Hill: Metropolitan whine

Metro Bank founder Vernon Hill believes in family values. He paid his wife Shirley’s architecture firm, InterArch, £21m to design the lenders’ branches — to the consternation of City governance wonks, but not shareholders: 96 per cent backed him in a 2018 AGM vote. However, it seems a few now harbour less than familial feelings. A US lawsuit suggests up to 40 may pursue Mr & Mrs Hill for losses after their company’s profit-sharing plan was invested mainly in Metro shares, which fell 90 per cent in Mr Hill’s final year as chairman. Those 40 people? Employees of InterArch Inc. Not a happy family business.

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