Renowned venture capitalist Jon Moulton addresses The Lancaster Forum on turnarounds
Published 12 March 2012
Author: Magnus George
March 6th saw Lancaster Chemistry (1973) alumnus Jon Moulton address an audience of small business owners, faculty members and students as part of the pre-launch activity for The Lancaster Forum – a network of business owners who have participated in the Institute for Entrepreneurship’s LEAD, GOLD and other programmes.
Following his chemistry study, Jon trained as a chartered accountant and has gone on to make a career out of venture capital. He shot to prominence with Alchemy Partners during the bankruptcy of MG Rover, and he has become a frequent commentator to debates in the media on matters related to business and the economy. He runs Better Capital, based in London. Recent successful turnarounds include Reader's Digest UK, yacht builder Fairline Boats and stationery suppliers Spicers. Jon is non-executive chairman of the independent specialist growth-oriented broker FinnCap, chairman of Guernsey-based airline Aurigny, and a board member of the £2.4bn Regional Growth Fund.
Jon Moulton’s talk was entitle ‘turnarounds’, and was in two parts. In the first, he gave a highly amusing overview of the issues involved in the high-octane endeavour of rescuing businesses from the brink of disaster. Deals involve business sellers who are under high stress, are typically concluded within a fortnight, and invariably reveal a host of corporate malpractice, incompetence and dubious shenanigans that have contributed to the parlous state that target companies end up in. The profits, and losses, in this type of activity can be sizeable, and the work favours those with a predisposition to decisiveness, not to mention deep pockets. Audience members were treated to a range of valuable insights, many of which can be used to help prevent their own ventures faltering needlessly.
Having laid out the harsh but necessary steps involved in turning around failing but fundamentally sound businesses, Jon then turned to address wider economic issues. He holds trenchant views on the uncharted territory that Western economies have entered, and his analysis of the root causes was compelling. Ongoing failure to grasp the nettlebed across various jurisdictions will, he argued, only result in worse measures and harsher cuts when ‘the crisis’ points are, inevitably, reached. Delaying the pain is not only a question of economics. By passing compounded problems onto the next generation, Jon argued, the economic situation poses profound ethical questions too.
The audience responded to Jon’s talk with a barrage of questions, and the event was an excellent preview of what The Lancaster Forum promises for the coming year: intellectual stimulation, provocation of thought and a fun way to invest time in strategic debate.
Jon Moulton at Lancaster University Management School