In 1999 I was working as a freelance salesman for a Taiwanese company with a factory in China. The factory had been a new start up for finished goods created by a company with a long history of producing textiles.
In my search for business I read all the relevant trade magazines (mostly sports related) and in one of these came upon a new start up, Kooga Rugby, based in the capital of UK Sports, Manchester.
Though lived in the south, I had no problem in driving north and meeting one of the directors. We got on well and soon I had them as a customer. With them I developed the then brand new helmet for Rugby and it was the sight of this on the field really launched the brand into the comparative, big time.
The business and the friendship continued and as part of their development they were able to raise finance from the venture capital company 3i’s. Part of the deal was the they would have the power to appoint a chairman, which they did. I met him a few times and talked to the founders and from this concluded that the chairman was going to take the business over, cutting the founders out.
I can’t be certain how I arrived at this conclusion. Though I have had a lot of experience of people I don’t think I possess any special powers but actually the founding directors agreed with me. What to do?
Of course the business was short of money and needed further capital but clearly this would not come from 3i’s who had just announced that their minimum investment would be £5,000,000 and not the £3,000,000 that had from 3i’s.
With this knowledge I approached a contact I had in corporate restructuring and formulated a plan to put the company into receivership and buy it from the receiver. I calculated that the deal could be made for £500,000 and set out to raise the money.
The richest person I knew was the boss of the Taiwanese company I was working for so I set out to meet him and propose a deal. The initial mistake I made was to brief him by email. He wan’t interested but didn’t say so. I flew to China but was told he had just left for Taipei. I flew to Taipei only to be told he was in Tainan. So I took a plane again, caught up with him and told him that we should buy Kooga, that I would put in £200,000 and that he should put in £300,000. After a few questions, he agreed and with the finance in place I moved the plan forward.
Reporting back to my soon to be partners in Kooga, it became their job to put the company into receivership, using my contacts as the people to do it. Not unnaturally, the Chairman was all in favour, figuring that he could get his corporate restructuring people in place and that then he could manoeuvre to get control. However, they resisted his efforts at persuasion, stuck with me and the rest as they say “is history”