MARINE FINANCE: VIKING RAID BY MATTHEW MCCLEERY
BY STAS MARGARONIS
International trade relies on ocean shipping and ocean shipping is increasingly dependent on finance. There was a time when shipowners often came from the ranks of sea captains. Today shipowners increasingly come from the ranks of business school graduates, such as from the Cass Business School in London, home of the Costas Grammenos Centre for Shipping Trade and Finance.
“Viking Raid” is the second book in a journey through international shipping and marine finance written by Matthew McCleery, president of Marine Money.
His first book, “The Shipping Man”, introduces us to Robert Fairchild, a failed American hedge fund manager, who is seduced into buying a ship in the hopes of easy and quick profit. As a shipowner Fairchild is quickly disabused of the ease and glamour of shipping when a U.S. Coast Guard inspection followed by a pirate raid off the African coast nearly cost him his ship. To make matters worse, he is rescued by a Norwegian tanker buccaneer, Coco Jacobsen, who demands Fairchild use his financial skills to save the Norwegian’s tanker fleet by mounting a $300 million junk bond offering!
In McCleery’s second book, “Viking Raid”, Fairchild and his new Norwegian boss, Jacobsen, come under attack from a U.S. shale gas wildcatter and his Chinese partner. Fairchild must rescue Jacobsen by acquiring an elusive fleet of liquefied natural gas carriers and $500 million – fast.
Both McCleery’s books focus on the variety of financing mechanisms that shipowners rely upon to survive in volatile freight and fuel markets. In “The Shipping Man,” Fairchild is sold a ship on its way to the scrapyard by a wily Greek shipowner who convinces him the low purchase price will equal big profits – until the U.S. Coast Guard inspection proves otherwise.
In “Viking Raid”, Fairchild discovers that his supposedly wealthy Norwegian tanker tycoon employer seems to be constantly on the brink of bankruptcy. To save himself and his employer from insolvency, Fairchild embarks on an international journey through the worlds of Greek, Norwegian, and Danish shipowners, London ship brokers and Korean shipbuilders. As Fairchild’s prospects look increasingly hopeless, the key to success is to hang on a little longer, a Greek shipowner advises.
In a shipping world where threat and opportunity are a way of life, Fairchild learns to appreciate the advice.
In ‘Viking Raid,” the reader will learn about the importance of an obscure Greek island, Chios, the homeland of many Greek shipowners. The surprise for these shipowners – and maybe some residents of Chios – is the role of Kardamyla, a supposedly quiet seaside village.
As Fairchild, the financier navigates stormy mercantile seas, we might be reminded of John Putnam Thatcher, the banker detective featured in the Emma Lathen mysteries, which were widely read on Wall Street. The mysteries, written by two American women (one of whom, M.J. Latsis, was a Greek-American economist), focused on Thatcher’s problem-solving skills as a banker tracking down malefactors in the worlds of business, finance and international trade.
Fairchild may not be Thatcher but he reminds us of why financiers are important.