Knight & Deigh started life as a retelling of The Orphans, from the point of view of the second lead character, Hannice Knight. It, too, is partly set in the rural Tanzania I remember from the early 1980s, but some of the technologies used are much more recent. To that extent, it is anachronistic. Don’t forget, though; it is fictional, made up, lies. All of it.
Hannice Knight had run the African operation of his father’s global business for many years, when a freak accident at home left him unable to walk. Together with physiotherapist Sophie Deigh, he tries to bring into his life the excitement and adventure he missed in his formative years, due to the need to be tied to the business.
A number of adventures and activities follow including scuba-diving, sky-diving, power-boating and camping, and a half-brother he never knew about; but even these can’t lift Hannice’s spirits.
What, or who can? Will the developing closeness between Hannice and Sophie come to anything, and what of the rumoured advances in medical technology?
Beginning on 12 February 2017, I am publishing Knight & Deigh here as a serial; one scene each Sunday.
The full list of scenes so far published is here
Knight & Deigh. Chapter Five, scene two: The meeting.
Wednesday was the day of the meeting. We were sure that Della would have briefed the three directors of TanzCap, Mr Afolabe Fonseca, Mr Ravindran Thakur and Mr Abraham Wangwe. We also had no doubt that she had instructed them to hold out for a figure much higher than we were prepared to offer. Paul was relaxed about the numbers. His only concern was that someone with the right credentials should hold the 51% of the business that the licence mandated, so the company could continue to do business. The level of capitalisation was of lesser interest, as he said that JPI could always offer top-up funding if needed.
Seven of us assembled around the conference table in Jaxson’s facility: on one side, three TanzCap directors; on the other side, Max and I, as negotiators, and Sophie as observer. Paul sat at the head of the table, favouring neither side. He acted as chairman and Sophie as secretary.
Paul called the meeting to order and set out its purpose.
“Jaxson Pharmaceutical (Tanzania) is required by its licence to be 51% owned by Tanzanian interests. This requirement has been met by TanzCap, but TanzCap’s owners, JCap Holdings, wish to divest the holding. Further, the government of Tanzania has indicated that it does not accept that TanzCap is fully owned by Tanzanian interests, as its sole shareholder, apart from nominal amounts held by its directors, is Jont Capital (India).
“It is, therefore, incumbent on TanzCap to offer their interest in JPT to a suitable Tanzanian national or a company that is domiciled in Tanzania and 100% owned by Tanzanian interests. The relevant bodies being satisfied that Knight Investment (Tanzania) meets the domicile and ownership requirements, and they having expressed an interest in purchasing from TanzCap, their interest in JPT, the sole purpose of this meeting is for the parties to agree a price.” He then called upon the parties to start their negotiation, agreement to be reached within one hour.
Max spoke first. “Based on the current value and trading position of JPT, we are prepared to make a cash offer amounting to four billion shillings.”
She looked at me, her eyebrows raised as if seeking confirmation. I nodded briefly.
Two of the three TanzCap directors had clearly taken on board their owner’s instructions; they calmly shook their heads from side to side, indicating dissent. The one Max had pointed out to me as Kanene’s father, Afolabi Fonseca, was incandescent.
“How can you possibly make such a derisory offer?” he shouted, “The company is worth at least thirty billion, fifty-one percent of which is more than fifteen billion. Yet this white devil is offering only four billion!”
Mr Thakur grabbed his sleeve and tried to pull him down, but he wasn’t having any of it.
“Unhand me, Ravi,” he said. “I knew, as soon as this creature came in pretending to be working for Miss Jont, that she was trouble. I told you all. I kept a close watch on what she was doing, where she was going—”
“Sit down and be quiet, Labi,” Mr Wangwe counselled, “She is not going to raise her offer in the face of abuse and threats, is she? Remember, you are a director of a significant corporation, not a—”
“Not a what, Abraham? Not a what?” Fonseca demanded to know.
“A shaman, a witch doctor,” Max interjected. He looked ready to explode.
“Who has been talking to you?” he yelled.
“You have,” she calmly replied, “by your actions, by your words and by your behaviour. Now; would you care to sit down and listen to the advice of your colleague, or would you prefer to risk being declared unfit to hold a directorship?”
The other two directors grabbed a sleeve each and dragged him into his seat.
“We have had discussions with Miss Jont,” said Thakur.
“We imagined you would have,” I said. “What is her position?”
“Miss Jont says she would like to realise at least seven billion.”
“That’s too much for us,” Max advised, “I can increase from four to five billions for a quick agreement.”
Fonseca was clearly struggling to hold himself in check. Wangwe was muttering softly to him, trying to keep him calm whilst Thakur conducted the negotiation.
Thakur spoke into his phone, put it down and said, “I am authorised to accept five and a half billion. That is our red line. We cannot, and we will not accept any less.”
“You are aware, Mr Thakur,” I said, “that if we don’t reach an agreement at this meeting, JPT will be forced to cease trading and go into liquidation. You will then be left with 51% of a company that is worth only the market value of its tangible assets. So…”
“So it is as well that we are prepared to meet your figure of five and a half billion, isn’t it? Have your lawyers draw up the papers and present them to our lawyers by close of play on Friday. We should be able to conclude this and have the cash in your account by this time next week.”
I paused. “Will you look after that?” I said, turning to Max.
“Of course,” she replied.
Heads nodded, hands were shaken and the three TanzCap directors left the building. Two of them had a look of satisfaction, if not happiness; the other was still fuming.
Max recounted to the rest of us, details of her last face-to-face with Della, in which Della had informed her just how formidable an opponent she would be.
“If that was Della being formidable,” I observed, “it’s a pity we didn’t come up against her on a weak day; we might have come away from this with change out of the four billion we started with.”
Marcia came in bearing an ornate silver tray on which stood a magnum of France’s finest and five flutes.
“Why five glasses?” I asked.
“You don’t think I’m bringing the good stuff in and not having a glass myself, do you?” Marcia replied.
We all laughed, as the tension of the meeting melted away.
“I don’t know what I’d do without Marcia,” Paul said.
“I feel the same about Lindy,” I replied, “but I’m afraid I have to let Max have him. Not an easy thing for me, the man is a saint.”
“Look after Sophie,” Max said, with a note of poignancy.