Like any industrial crisis, British Steel’s collapse into liquidation this week leaves tens of thousands of blue-collar workers worrying over their ability to pay household bills, or feed their families.
To the globe-trotting private equity barons who have presided over the troubled company’s demise, the stakes appear to be considerably less desperate.
Almost 200 miles south of British Steel’s Scunthorpe site, in the heart of London’s Knightsbridge, is the HQ of Greybull Capital, a rapacious private equity firm that snapped up the steel company in 2016 for just £1.
Greybull Capital oversaw the collapse of Monarch, Comet and now British Steel. (Pictured) Marc Meyohas (right), one of the men who controls the private equity firm, shaking hands with Tata Steel UK chief executive Bimlendra Jha
Daniel Goldstein, who also controls Greybull capital, pictured with his wife, Deana
It’s located above a recently closed branch of luxury shoe store Jimmy Choo, just down the road from Harrods and adjacent to a branch of Dior, where alligator-skin handbags cost £26,000 — a sum approaching that of a steelworker’s annual wage.
There is no fancy name-plate. Instead, the company, which invests funds on behalf of ultra-wealthy clients, gives every impression of wanting to operate in anonymity.
Visitors can only gain entry by pressing a small, unmarked metal buzzer. A woman who answered the intercom this week refused to allow me access to the upstairs office, where just five people are employed, according to the firm’s Companies House filings.
Grey blinds were drawn across the windows, and a Rolls-Royce idled in the street outside.
This, then, is the highly-secretive nerve centre of a financial firm which spent the week asking the Government to dole out £75 million (in addition to a previous £120 million bailout) to prevent its investment in British Steel from going under. The cash would have come straight from the pockets of taxpayers.
There is no fancy name-plate on the company's Knightsbridge office, London, writes Guy Adams. Instead, the company, which invests funds on behalf of ultra-wealthy clients, gives every impression of wanting to operate in anonymity. (Pictured) A golden wrecking ball
Yet, like many London finance houses, Greybull is run by foreign nationals and chooses to hold many assets, including much of its stake in the ‘British’ firm, via an opaque offshore vehicle registered in the tax haven of Jersey. Such financial gymnastics are standard practice in the world of high finance. Some call this typical of unbridled, unaccountable, 21st-century global capitalism.
Indeed, unions have accused Greybull of laying ‘a trail of corporate destruction which has wreaked havoc on the lives of working people’ during its three years in charge of the steel firm.
All the while, it has taken £3 million a year out of British Steel in ‘management fees’, while simultaneously allowing the company to rack up bills of £17 million a year in interest on loans that Greybull itself issued, via Jersey, at rates of almost 10 per cent.
So who, exactly, is behind the secretive private equity firm? And how did this small bunch of ultra-wealthy foreigners come to own one of Britain’s industrial giants?
The answer, on paper, is very simple. According to Companies House filings, Greybull Capital is controlled by two men: Marc Meyohas and Daniel Goldstein.
They run the business via a Limited Liability Partnership, a complex structure which makes it impossible to establish how much it’s making in profits, paying senior executives, or handing over to investors.
What we do know, however, is that both Meyohas and Goldstein are astronomically rich.
A newspaper profile published several years ago described them as ‘familiar faces’ in exclusive restaurants where they ‘dine with a tight-knit circle of associates’.
Meyohas, a short, bespectacled Frenchman who co-founded Greybull in 2010, is at home in this rarefied neighbourhood, having known extreme wealth his entire life thanks to his father’s business dealings.
The 47-year-old son of a corporate lawyer called Nathan Meyohas, Marc grew up in Paris, but was sent as a teenager to board at Clifton College, the £37,000-a-year school in Bristol. After that, he studied economics at Manchester University before going into the world of business and finance.
His two sons with lawyer wife Fiona are educated at Dulwich College in South London, the £41,000-a-year alma mater of P.G. Wodehouse and Ernest Shackleton. The family spends holidays yachting and skiing, in both Europe and the U.S.
Marc Meyohas has a younger sister, Sarah, an experimental modern artist in New York who sells canvases for upwards of $10,000.
He is also close to a brother called Nathaniel, who helped set up Greybull. Nathaniel married into one of the world’s wealthiest families: wife Michaela is a scion of the Nahmad art-dealing dynasty, who are believed to own more than 3,000 masterpieces, including 300 Picassos stored in a duty-free warehouse in Geneva.
A third brother, Olivier, is a multi-millionaire London-based banker with U.S. corporation Blackstone.
As you might expect, the second Greybull kingpin, Daniel Goldstein, is similarly privileged. A strapping, 40-year-old all-American banker, he was educated at Yale and previously worked at Lehman Brothers and BNP Paribas.
He has three children with wife Deana, a socialite and philanthropist who worked for a brief spell as ‘jewellery editor’ of Tatler magazine, a job which (as one former magazine staffer puts it) tends to be given to ‘young ladies who don’t really need to work for a living’.
The couple moved to London in 2008, spending £5 million on a five-bedroom house in Chelsea.
Last year, after an extensive refurbishment, they placed the property on the market for £8.75 million. Lavishly furnished, and full of modern art and bespoke furniture, it resembles an interiors catalogue rather than a typical family home, and also has a basement gymnasium.
It is a world away from Scunthorpe, where a terraced house can fetch under £50,000.
Little wonder, therefore, that Greybull Capital and its methods divide opinion.
To critics, it represents the very worst of vulture capitalism: a ruthless, tax-avoiding organisation, which seeks to turn a profit by purchasing failing companies and picking over their bones.
To admirers, it performs a valuable service: rescuing