Armin had two other general partners, and although they both had only minority interests in the firm, Armin treated them as equals for the purposes of major decision-making within the firm. That included new hires. I discovered this when Armin dropped a 5 inch sheaf of paper in front of me. It was a deal. Names were obscured. Details black lined. But it was definitely a deal.
"Of course, if it were up to me," he said, "I would have hired you already. My partners are, well, they find people more opaque than I do. But then, they are both former CFOs. It is hard to blame them. And, to complicate things even more they are not here to be charmed by you, like I am," he smiled at his own joke with this last.
After I picked the stack of paper up, it seemed to get heavier and heavier as Armin continued to speak.
"We prepared this case for you. It is a real deal that we looked at about 6 months ago. Run though it. Put together a presentation. Concentrate on creative deal structures. Remember that we are a smaller firm and we have to be more nimble. Smarter. You'll present your conclusions to my partners and me via telephone on, oh, shall we say Wednesday?" 5 inches of mergers and acquisition case. In 3 days. Suddenly Kim's studying for her investment banking training program in her closet sized Manhattan apartment seemed benign, even desirable.
I had only planned to be gone the weekend and my welcome with Kim, who was a terrible hostess in her current state anyhow, was effectively worn out. I had to go home. I started reading the case on the way back to the airport but by the time I arrived I was so panicked and absorbed in its complex detail that I walked right through the terminal without even checking in and took the train from Newark airport to the city. I checked in to the Hudson Hotel and I did it so blindly driven with fear I don't even remember having heard the room rate. It didn't matter.
There was no way I was going to sit on a plane, deal with loud, flu carrying children back in coach class and try to salvage my intellect enough to work on a case for a shattered day before flying right back. No. Instead it was room service for 3 nights in a row.
The case was a complex LBO. The target had a badly muddled capital structure. Uncooperative shareholders who had to be bought with ever increasing amounts of increasingly expensive debt. I was on the third theoretical tier and putting warrants underneath them to meet the stated IRR goals of the mezzanine fund before I had enough capital to do the deal.
I emerged from that marathon session with what I thought was some of my best work. Time constrained. Incomplete. In some places not as polished as I would have liked, but still, all considered, some of my best work.
Presentation slides arranged. Attached to email. Sent to three addresses and I was on the phone with Armin & Partners. I launched into the first 5 slides, my summary and introduction and then I hit the natural pause before I delved into the first detailed section.
"No," Armin said. "Wrong."