Pattaya, 14th October, 2009

Today I have been sober for 45 days.


I am still a bit of a skeptic as far as my “Higher Power “ is concerned, but I must admit that I am coming round to the notion rapidly.

Yesterday I recounted my little “contretemps” with my sponsor over whether or not I should attend the next morning’s AA meeting and then meet with him later, which subsequently resulted in him ceasing to be my sponsor.

I also told you about a new member of our group who came back for his second meeting, and it made me happy because it looked as though he might stick.

Well yesterday morning, I was driving down Second Road toward the meeting venue, (on my way to the meeting which my ex-sponsor had told me to skip), and who should I see standing on the side of the road, looking totally bemused? – None other than the new man who I had written about yesterday.

I parked up, and asked him where he was going. He told me he was lost as the Baht Bus had dropped him in the wrong place and wasn’t sure where he was going. I asked him if he wanted to go to the meeting, and when he answered in the affirmative, he got in the car and we drove the rest of the way to the meeting together.

If I hadn’t had the row with my sponsor and defied his “order”, I would never have come across the bewildered fellow, and he may have been lost forever to AA and recovery. Believe me, this guy is in a very bad way, and by his own admittance he will soon be dead if he can’t stop drinking.

Coincidence?

A Higher Power at work?

Who knows?

I will leave it to you, my dear readers, to ponder.

I was out most of yesterday, visiting with my friend who has a beautiful house next to Phoenix Golf Course. He has been a great friend to me, and has been one of the few who is always ready to offer a helping hand, give sensible advice and is never too busy to listen sympathetically to my never ending domestic problems.

And the wonderful bonus is that he neither smokes nor drinks, and has never done so. He is not a member of AA as he has never been an alcoholic, but he is certainly a very good person to be with, and when we are together, the thought of having a drink never crosses my mind – even when we are in places where all and sundry are getting drunk.

Anyway the errant wife had the temerity to call and accuse me of being with a lady all day – and this from someone who went away for one night and returned after one week. She insisted on me putting my friend on the phone to prove I was telling her the truth, and after I complied, I let fly at her, and asked her how dare she doubt my word after the way she had behaved during the past 6 years. To my amazement she actually apologized.

I will try to keep myself calm and serene for a few more days, as the time for me to leave is fast approaching, and I don’t want anything to blow up and affect my departure plans.

Today she informed me that she will be taking the kids and other family back to her village on Friday. So it looks as though my time to go is almost nigh.

Now back to Mobi’s story


MOBI’S STORY – (PART 15)

THE INSURANCE YEARS (CONTINUED)


Once we had established a good presence in Western Europe by opening a large branch office in Paris, and a number of representative offices in other western European countries, we then turned our attention to Central and Eastern Europe.

It hadn’t been long since many Eastern European countries had thrown off the Soviet yoke, and at that time were desperately trying to open up their fragile economies and attract western investment.

If there is any part of my career that I would look back on with pride, it would be the period of time that I devoted to developing and building the company’s business “empire” in Eastern Europe. I was instrumental in sowing the seeds that will undoubtedly grow over the coming decades.

In the early days, I was fortunate to obtain the services of a Croatian National, who we ‘poached’ from a London reinsurance broker who specialized in Eastern Europe, and who brought to us a wide network of contacts throughout the eastern continent.

His task was to use his network of friends and acquaintances to identify companies and businesses across the continent that may be potential targets for a take over.

Lists were made, published accounts and research information on companies was obtained, and where necessary, translated, and a short list was produced for further action.

The next step was to arrange a preliminary ‘field’ reconnoiter and meetings with the management of the target company. Before I undertook these trips, two factors had to be established. The first was that we were not getting involved in a hostile take over, and secondly that we had to have whatever it took in that particular country to have complete day to day MANAGEMENT control of the company, and to be able to control the Board of Directors and to approve all corporate decisions. We were not interested in a minority investment, where locals still held ultimate control, but 51%, or whatever it took to empower us in the manner as stated above, would be fine.

So began my travelling career. I travelled all over eastern Europe; from Russia, to Poland, to Belgrade, to Hungary, to Bulgaria, to the Czech Republic, to Slovakia, to  Moldova, to Croatia, to Macedonia, to Latvia, to Romania, Serbia, Ukraine and many more places that I cannot recall due to so many years of alcohol abuse.

My trips involved high level, highly stressful meetings with local management, sometimes with translators present, followed by inspections of the accounts and insurance records, meetings with local lawyers and auditors, and generally trying  to assess a “feel” for the place the target business and the local business environment.

Initial visits would be invariably be made alone, but in follow up trips (if the target passed the first hurdle) I would take along IT experts, senior underwriters, and other specialists who would look closer at the operation and try to assess its long term potential.

At each stage of the process, I would have to prepare a detailed report to our masters in Head Office, who would signify their approval (or not) to proceed to the next stage.

As you can imagine, this involved a great deal of time, and a lot of travelling. I might have to visit one particular target up to six times before the deal was consummated, or as often happened we reluctantly concluded that the deal would not work and reluctantly broke off negotiations.

The ultimate decision on these acquisitions had to be made by the main board at our Head office, and once the final go ahead was given, we once more had to undergo an in depth round of due diligence, before consummating the deal.

Once the business had been acquired, my boss and I were invariably appointed to the local Boards, and we then had the task of bedding in the new business, instilling our own corporate culture. Then there would invariably be the task of ‘rationalising’ and restructuring local management and staff. This became intense and stressful as it involved dealing with, and sometimes dispensing with, long serving management and staff who we had identified as being incapable of change, or being counter productive to the future success of our revamped business strategies.

Within a few years, we had an impressive group of insurance and reinsurance subsidiaries and branches across eastern Europe from Kiev to Budapest, and from Prague to Warsaw. In all we had a substantial presence in over 10 countries; all acquired for relatively little capital outlay and all primed and ready to take off as and when the businesses in these newly freed ex-Communist states started to develop and expand their insurance products.

And all this had to be achieved in conjunction with carrying out my existing duties, which still included running many of the key departments of the company at our European Head Office in London.

Somewhere during this period I was promoted to Deputy General Manger, European Operations, and as a consequence,  I promoted my Chief Financial Manager as F.D. in my place and he started to relieve me of my day to day financial duties. But my overall responsibilities remained wide and arduous.

The UK acquisitions also continued apace, and as before I became caught up in countless hours of negotiations and due diligence work on some major companies that we were targeting in the London market, and in the UK provinces.

It was literally one after the other, sometimes two or three simultaneously, and at the same time we were continuing to build up our East European network and to bed in the recent additions.

And if that wasn’t enough, we became increasingly interested in making an entry into the Lloyd’s of London syndicate insurance market, and after what seemed like never ending and extremely arduous and tedious negotiations; we acquired a major marine insurance syndicate at Lloyd’s.

Lloyd’s of London was a whole new ball game for the likes of us, traditional “company market” players, and a huge learning curve had to be undertaken and excessive bureaucratic procedures had to be overcome before we were able to take our place as proud directors of our new Lloyd’s syndicate.

Also at this time the “executive European management” moved into new, prestige, luxury offices on the top floor of a major new City office building.

You could say that I had finally made it.

I had a huge, luxuriously furnished office, complete with sofas, armchairs, cocktail cabinet, wide screen TV, and to top it all, a magnificent, panoramic view of the City of London.

My young, pretty, mini-skirted secretary had her own adjacent office, and no one could get near me, or even call me, without being vetted and given the ‘once over’ by ‘her highness’.

At that time I was 53 years old, earning a great deal of money, and with my annual bonuses also racking up, there was no doubt that within a few years I would be a multi-millionaire. I was becoming one of the infamous, City “fat Cats”, but I can assure you that this “fat Cat” was earning his fat the hard way.

Yet, barely a  year later, at the grand old age of 54 I was permanently retired, and within another year I was jetting my way to Thailand, alone and very alcoholic.

What happened?

We shall see very soon….




5 thoughts on “Pattaya, 14th October, 2009”

  1. Hi Mobi, thanks for sharing! It is a remarkable story about a remarkable selfmade man!
    I really enjoy to read it!
    Thanks!

    Like

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