David Parkin on the Clipper story, a losing bet and golfing gloom

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IT was fascinating to spend some time with Steve Parkin, chairman of Yorkshire-based Clipper Group, last week.
The Leeds-based logistics business floated on the London Stock Exchange earlier this year and, as Steve was quick to point out, is the best performing stock on the main market this year.
“Not bad for a van driver from Leeds!” smiled Steve, over lunch at the Italian restaurant Amici, in Alwoodley, North Leeds, another venture which he has invested in.
That pride in his working class roots and mentality of hard graft has, I’m sure, served him well navigating the world of the City of London where the sharks wear Savile Row suits and knife you in the back rather than the front.
You sometimes find self-made entrepreneurs losing some of their drive once their company joins the stock market and suddenly it isn’t all their own any more.
The combination of the analysts (or teenage scribblers as they were once described), negative national press coverage and loud-mouthed shareholders all telling you how to run the company you built from scratch must be, at times, a demoralising experience.
Steve Parkin has embraced life on the stock market with gusto, seeing the opportunities that such a move can provide.
Clipper is in talks over new contracts and is now in an even stronger position to make acquisitions that will add serious long-term value to the business.
He also has no qualms over his decision to sell his shares at the placing price of 100p even though now they are touching 150p.
Steve’s approach is simple: the City was awash with potential floats at the time Clipper was focused on a long-term strategy which involved coming to market.
Accepting a realistic price and making sure the float was successful was the right thing to do.
I’m sure that has ensured the subsequent success of the company’s share price, and, given Steve and his family still own a significant chunk of the business, then they will have a share in the future upside anyway.
Whatever happens, it will keep them in Dover sole at Amici for a while.
AS well as investing in Amici and Guiseley football club, Steve Parkin has a string of race horses and a successful bloodstock business.
Which I’m sure would have made him eminently more qualified than me to speak to professional pundit, commentator and gambler Angus Loughran who was in Yorkshire for England’s one-day cricket match at Headingley earlier this month.
You may remember he achieved national profile when he co-starred with comedians Frank Skinner and David Baddiel on the 1990s TV show Fantasy Football League.
Sitting behind a desk, clad in pyjamas and a woolly dressing gown, he was dubbed “Statto” for his encyclopaedic knowledge of sport.
He can now be spotted at racecourses and other top sporting venues across the country and despite looking like a rumpled Oxbridge don, he is often hob-nobbing with the rich and famous including Sir Alex Ferguson.
I was introduced to him when he was having dinner in Leeds restaurant Sous le Nez on the eve of the one-day match.
His host mistakenly suggested I had a decent knowledge of horse-racing. He launched into a story which involved phrases like laying, naps and short heads and ended with him saying to me: “So what do you think of that then?”
I mumbled something and wandered off apologetically, making a mental note to watch The Morning Line more often.
EVERY year I accept one invitation to a golf day and then spend the weeks leading up to it regretting such a rash decision.
And sadly my regret tends to be magnified during the round when I spend most of the time apologising to my host for the state of my golf which is so poor that team-mates exclaim “great shot” when I hole a putt from a foot out.
This year’s annual Parky golf appearance was at the RNLI Leeds Business Branch Golf Day sponsored by Baker Tilly.
I was a guest of Neil Sevitt, one of the main men at the accountancy firm following its merger with RSM Tenon.
Neil has organised this event annually at Moor Allerton Golf Club for the last 14 years and its relaxed approach – a BBQ and no need to dress for dinner – has made it one of the most popular golf days on the regional calendar, attracting a record 28 teams this year.
Baker Tilly had several teams entered and there was plenty of banter when regional managing partner Kevin O’Connor found he was leading the Baker Tilly B team, while Neil led the A team, hampered by me – probably the golf equivalent of the TV show A Team’s Mad Murdoch.
I saw Neil and Kevin deep in conversation near the putting green before the shotgun start and asked whether it constituted a management meeting.
“Yes, we were just talking about some business we have won,” said Kevin.
“We don’t need to talk about business we have lost because we rarely lose it,” added Neil earnestly.
With the best two scores from each four-strong team counting on every hole, I think I managed to get on the card twice in the whole round.
But that didn’t stop Neil and team-mate Mark Eastwood from NatWest giving me plenty of moral support and proving great company, as well as delivering a decent score for our team.
Completely beside the point, I remember when I was a reporter on a local evening paper, one of my colleagues got a front page splash story on the ladies captain of a local golf club going for a sex change.
The editor, who fancied himself as something of a provincial Kelvin Mackenzie, the then editor of The Sun, decided to write a short pithy editorial on this story.
After a few paragraphs suggesting the new male member of the golf club should be embraced by his fellow members, he signed off with the line: “But one thing’s for sure – he’ll never make pa.”
Have a great weekend.