"For the third and last time, will you please stop humming Boomtown Rats songs?" pleaded the chairman of the improbably-sized investment company Prandeamus Asset Management when I visited his office this week.
"I know you think you're being funny but the fall-out from this week's unfortunate Bob Geldof episode is actually making me nostalgic for last week's unfortunate advertising episode."
"No problem," I said pleasantly. "I only know three of their songs anyway. But seriously - what were you thinking? And why am I only hearing about this all now?" "I guess you're only hearing about it now because you don't read those ghastly tabloids," said the chairman. "True enough," I nodded. "Although that's a bit of a harsh way to describe Professional Adviser's opposition."
"I was talking about The Sun and The Mirror," the chairman pointed out. "Ah," I said. "Of course, you were." "As for what we were thinking, well, as ever it seemed a good idea at the time," said the chairman. "I mean, I know Sir Bob isn't afraid to mince his words but after he behaved so impeccably at the Intrinsic conference the week before, I figured things would turn out OK for Prando's too."
"Hang on" I said. "I'd gained the impression Sir Bob might have been less than complimentary about a fairly significant part of the audience at the Intrinsic gig." "True," agreed the chairman. "And I had read those stories too but then I also read Intrinsic and Old Mutual insisting he could not have been more beautifully behaved and so I saw no reason to rethink his appearance at the Prando's conference.
"By the most extraordinary coincidence, we had even booked him for exactly the same reasons Intrinsic and Old Mutual had - to cover a wide range of topics including philanthropy, global politics and the role of business in society. Similarly, we had asked that his speech cover the societal impact of the EU Referendum vote and related themes, such as a loss of trust in experts."
"But of course," I nodded. "When one thinks of such matters, Bob Geldof is immediately the name that springs to mind." "Precisely," said the chairman. "Granted, I suppose you could say the same about ‘shouting at people to be more generous' and ‘being a little bit sweary in the process' but, as I say, I was completely reassured by Intrinsic and Old Mutual as to how the Geldof appearance had gone almost without a hitch."
"Almost?" I checked. "Did they not suggest it had all been an unvarnished triumph?" "Well, there was the little matter of Sir Bob overrunning his allotted time by just a few seconds and being politely asked to conclude his thesis on philanthropy and EU relations so the conference could end on time," the chairman replied." "And very much not …" I began.
"And very much not being got in a headlock by Gabby Logan and dragged off the stage as some sources have implied - no," interrupted the chairman. "Very much not that." "Whereas at your conference," I prompted. "Ours?" winced the chairman. "Can you believe it - the one time our events team leave the Prando's Taser back in the office."
"I'm just sorry I wasn't there," I sighed. "Me too," nodded the chairman. "We could have done with an extra body towards the end." "Still," I said, "whatever you and the good, good people of Intrinsic and Old Mutual feel about Geldof's oratorical potential, I do find him an odd choice of speaker at a financial services event." "Oh you mustn't blame Sir Bob," said the chairman. "I don't," I said emphatically. "I blame you.
"Clearly you were just reaching for someone a bit different and, when your speaker agency floated the idea of Sir Bob, you didn't really think it through - either regarding what he might say or indeed how it might look. I mean, hopefully you didn't pay the ‘£50,000-plus fee range' the quick internet search I did before I came here suggests is the good knight's going rate - but even so.
"So you went for the name and the glamour and, frankly, it's a PR trap." "I know, I know," sighed the chairman. "And I've been caught."
The chairman isn’t answering his email
Reforms not enough
An economic cocktail
To encourage consumers to shop around
Will report to Pat Shea