It had to happen. A few years ago I announced the demise of the City of London. The old place in its old form had enjoyed a great run but was on its way out, and would now be relaunched as Hong Kong West. As the flag comes down from Cazenove’s masthead, we can witness power being handed over. By nature independent to the point of idiosyncrasy, Caz now believes that this model no longer works, and is putting the core of its business into a joint venture with the vast American bank currently known as J.P. Morgan. The aspiration must be that JPM Caz will go straight to the top of the deal-makers’ league. With Caz’s connections and Morgan’s muscle, it could be unstoppable. In much the same way, Bernard Shaw proposed a joint venture to Mrs Patrick Campbell: ‘Just imagine a baby with my brains and your looks.’ She demurred: ‘Yes, Shaw, but what if the baby had my brains and your looks?’ Even so, and however the gene pool is split, this infant’s destiny looks preordained. Morgan has taken an option to buy Caz out in five years’ time, and Caz has an option to sell its stake to Morgan. You do not need an MBA in applied deal-making, or a Caz partner’s finely tuned instincts, to guess how this deal will work out. The war of independence has been lost.
Our man in sandals
The pass was sold when the Cazenove partnership turned itself into a company and announced its intention to bring its own shares to the market. ‘We shall never go public,’ Luke Meinertzhagen had promised thirty years earlier. ‘It is not fair on the future partners if the existing ones sell their goodwill once and for all.’ That sense of a duty to posterity made Caz, in its way, a good club or, more precisely, a good regiment.