Magazine article Management Today

Business Lifeforms: The Takeover Merchant

Magazine article Management Today

Business Lifeforms: The Takeover Merchant

Article excerpt

Private-equity hardman Murray Wright finds grim satisfaction in his wealth.

In an anonymous suite of offices, in a nondescript building, up an obscure street on the City's tatty north-eastern fringes are the headquarters of Murray Wright's controversial and ever-shifting empire. And, if his many critics are to be believed, Wright is in there right now, either sharpening his knives or counting his ill-gotten gains. Whatever he's up to, there's unlikely to be more than one beneficiary.

Michael Wright is to the Noughties what Gordon Gekko was to the 1980s.

He's a takeover merchant, a private-equity buccaneer, a corporate raider.

He's a man who buys assets - usually failing companies or property. He puts the fear of God into the management, slashes the workforce, flogs off the under-performing bits and cuts costs and expenditure to the bone.

When he has licked (or kicked) the balance sheet back into shape, he sells whatever remains at a hefty premium. And if his chosen vocation isn't enough to have real value-creating business-people foaming at the mouth, he does it all with debt (ie, other people's money).

But there are differences between Wright and old Wall Street: the movers of the '80s relished their notoriety, but he eschews the limelight - the phrase 'shadowy figure' might have been invented for him. And whereas yuppies were more flash than cash, Wright's pile would make Croesus blush: one and half billion, it's whispered.

Wright was born in 1962, the son of a self-made tool-hire tycoon. For his critics, this is a double gift. They can be snooty about his lack of polish and education, of establishment credentials. Yet Wright senior was wealthy and tabbed junior's dabbling in property in the early '80s.

So detractors can point to Daddy's largesse, too. OK, Wright's claim that his father gave him nothing is strictly true, but his boast isn't aimed at the financially sophisticated. (Dad underwrote hundreds of thousands in bank loans, which is much the same thing.)

Whatever help Wright had, though, he has now far outrun his origins - and most of the Sunday Times Rich List. He moved on from investing in residential property to the commercial market and then, in the early '90s, into underperforming companies. For him and his wealth, it has been a relentless one-way journey ever since - apart from just one reversal of fortune. In 1992, his partner Nick Proud stitched him up royally, costing him around a third of his fortune. At their final meeting, it's said, Wright told him with glacial calm to leave the country within a week. …

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