<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/dont-you-forget-about-me/”>Don’t You Forget About Me</a>
NEVER HEARD OF HIM
Jim walked slowly into the garden, shading his eyes from the bright sunlight as he came out of the shadows of the huge mansion. His glum expression told it all as he said to Jane and Richard, “It’s all over. The morphine dose was finally too strong. Will is dead.”
His two friends looked sad and Jane was badly upset as she’d known Will all the 69 years of their lives and been married to him for 42 of them. “I should have been with him, Richard, but I just couldn’t.” He understood. Jane and Will had been born in the same street. If it was a shock to Will’s friends, his death, Rick thought, would cause much greater speculation in the financial world. Jim, Jane and Richard realised that almost nobody had a clue who the real Will, you know the person they all loved and would miss dreadfully, actually was. After all, practically noboody did. It was possible the Times might carry a very short biography of him, but only in his rather obscure capacity as one of the richest men in the country. The Financial Times might also carry the fact that he had died, but as hardly anyone knew exactly how he had made his billions, and they really were billions, some sixteen £billion GBP, approx $ twenty five billion US, according to the Times, then there were a lot of people who would have loved to know how he had done it. But except for a very select band of friends the secrets of Will’s financial manoeuvrings went with him to his grave. But what could those who did know him well tell you of the quiet magnate save that he was amusing, generous and greatly beloved of a very few friends?
Well three of those friends we have already met and in truth there were probably only two more who were very close to Will. But most interestingly all six were very good friends amongst themselves who had known each other since schooldays. Sandy had for many years been expected to become Will’s wife, but for reasons none of them knew or discussed this never happened. In fact by the time Jane and Will were twenty seven they suddenly announced their engagement and were married a couple of weeks later. They had always been so close it was not totally surprising, but as they had never given any signs of amourous leanings towards each other at any stage in their lives up to then this caused a real shock. Jane had been expected to marry Richard when they spent a lot of time with each other in their late teens and early twenties, yet Richard was unmoved by the marriage. After they left university and he slowly cooled towards Jane, he could still often be caught looking at her with a wistful gleam in his eyes. That Richard and Sandy should marry soon after Jane and Will was hardly surprising. Obviously they had always seemed very good friends rather than hopelessly in love. But their marriage seemed happy enough.
Jim was usually attributed with introducing the last person to the the little clique. Lucy was a bubbley, vivavcious girl who Jim had met at a dance at Sandy and Jane’s School when they were both seventeen. They hit it off immediately and were seldom seen apart again. They married at university, both went to Oxford, and holidayed and also seemed to go everywhere with Jane and Will from their mid thirties for the rest of their lives. It will be gathererd from this that the group were all children of reasonably wealthy parents. This was quite true for all of them except Will who had won a scholarship to the school the boys went to and whose own parents had died in a holiday plane crash when he was thirteen. This should have upset him greatly, especially being an only child, but instead it turned him into something of a dreamer. One example of this side of his growing personality was the wish to possess things, cars, houses, expensive clothes and jewelry etc. It was Jane who always laughed at his wish to dissipate his fortune. This was a lump sum whose provenance was the amount the airline had agreed in an out of court settlement. It included all his education expenses and living expenses until he was 21 and on top of that a lump sum settlement of £400,000 sterling, an enormous sum in 1958. But therein lay the possibility of making his dreams come true.
Back in those days most boys at the sort of school the three went to were encouraged to aim for some profession which would eventually bring them in a good salary. Jim’s legal firm, in which Lucy also worked, flourished, and very quickly made a lot of money. Richard was a very successful surgeon and Will…. well that was just the point. What did Will do when and while studying Italian and French at Cambridge University? Herein the mystery really did begin to take on very strange proportions. You see he was known to have talked Jane into studying herself inside out to get a place at Cambridge too, and she just scraped in to spend three years getting a BA in economics while Will just breezed his way through a not terribly taxing degree in languages. Both of them got moderately good grades but neither seemed to care about this at all and were certainly never looked on as budding geniuses. Sandy got a good degree in Art history and with a loan from Will had opened a small gallery in the West End of London. It was to expand into a very lucrative concern. So how did this affect the close relationship between Jane and Richard at this time? Well it was in the summer of 1968 that several things came to a head that both cemented the friendship of the six young people and at the same time set tongues wagging throughout Europe as a British linguist wrote a book on the history of economics and, instead of publishing it normally, floated it as a company on the stock exchange.
A lot of people thought it amusing and almost a prank but the joke caught on and it sold several hundred thousand copies to see how such a weird financial move would change the value of the book. Well to everyone’s amazement as the book sales gradually netted nearly a million copies sold and some two millions pounds income to the trading company, “Will sell Ltd” the venture was seen to be a brainwave. Instead of just being a financial experiment it quickly made the company’s name and “Will Sell Ltd” was worth more than £30 million sterling, in those days some $US 75 millions dollars. Then all the players in the extraordinary game just disappeared from the world financial stage. Will put his huge profits into an account in Zurich and there for several months our story stands still
The day after Will’s coup, he was not quite twenty four at the time, the six friends met for a celebration dinner at the Savoy Hotel in London. They were in high spirits and, true to her personality, it was little Lucy, tightly gripping Jim’s hand, who blurted out half way through the Champagne toast, “How long do we wait for phase two?” The quiet, unassuming genius, Will, put his finger to his lips,
“Shshsh Luce, that all depends on how much you want to make? Jane and I have not quite put the finishing touches to our next little ruse. Let’s just enjoy this party and then I’ll call another general meeting in a couple of months, around Easter, and we’ll see how much we can turn our thirty millions into.” It was from about this time that Richard and Jane, some thought understandably, started to become a little lukewarm towards each other.
After this the company that Will, with Jane’s help, had formed remained very low profile for about another seven months, a lot longer than Will expected. But when the financial world suddenly awoke out of the blue to a Malaysian rubber market dealer called “Will Sell Ltd”, a lot of speculators felt they knew when they were on to a good thing. The company was floated immediately at £3 per share, without any indication how much rubber stock it held. After all why should it? But a couple of people on holiday in Zurich, Jim and Lucy yawned that morning as the markets opened and bought £ 150 million worth of shares in “Will Sell Ltd”, debt payable direct to the newly floated company in Kuala Lumpur. Payable in US$dollars of course. That one purchase by Jim and Lucy sparked off a rush on “Will Sell Ltd”, but why when no one had seen proof of the amount of rubber the company held?
As hoped by the owners of the company, before this struck the major players, “Will sell Ltd” had pocketed the non existent $150 million from Jim and Lucy and some £1.5 billion sterling from major players who actually parted with this much money before anybody examined the books of “Will Sell Ltd.”By then, five hours after starting trading, it had folded up, declared itself banrupt and all assets moved to an unknown destination in South America. Legally it was indicted for criminal fraud in Malaysia, but as nobody knew anything about it the Asian police could not trace the huge sums moved from Kuala Lumpur to…..? Exactly to where. You see the original “Will Sell Ltd” had been closed down in Britain and the former owner said to have retired to Ireland. Several people thought, many years later, that the destination was Venezuela as Richard and Sandy were on holiday there. Under the false name of Mr and Mrs Price, Will’s sense of humour could really be dreadful at times.
So here we are in 1973 when our close friends were all living established, if unexpected lives. Jane and Will were married, Richard and Sandy were starting to see more of each other, while Richard was a budding surgeon of repute, and Sandy’s art venture was taking off very successfully. Finally Jim and Lucy had a thriving law firm in which they were both partners. But where were Will and Jane? Well, we have already touched on his love of glamorous and expensive things and none more so than the house he bought himself in Surrey. It was bought in the name of a company in Peru, where more than a £1.3 billion of the lost money still lay hidden in various vaults. Will’s house had 41 rooms and three acres of grounds. It was lavishly furnished and many people thought that Jane had only married him because if he would not heed her notes of caution about gaspiating his wealth she would share it and make sure he was nothing like as extravagant as he wished to be. And it was at their house that the six friends met for a second Christmas weekend at the end of 1973. But to what purpose? Well by this time all six of them were coming up with ideas of how to make ever greater fortunes out of the fortunes they already had.
That Christmas Will told each of the five of them that from then on he would be giving £100,000 to each of them per anum if they helped come up with ideas for increasing the capital. Will had seen a Venezuelan Oil company about to go bust, and snapped it up for a relatively small sum. He never told the others, but by May 1974 he was able to sell his oil shares for £ 9 billion and this was when the world took notice. Suddenly financial papers and journals were asking who was this magnate sitting on near ten billion sterling? Nobody knew his name and as he and his friends moved the money around so fast and so cleverly, no journalist or financial expert could ever put a surname to Will. He did not mind people knowing that much but his five friends hid him behind such a blanket of total obscurity that as the value of his capital steadied out at around £17 billion and stayed there it ceased to be a news story. Thus from the end of 1979 to the middle of 2014 the six friends were very comfortably off and their annual honorarium paid into overseas accounts where they could never be traced made them all very rich indeed.
Given the way their lives had develoed one other important aspect of their friendship should be mentioned. The three families has all bought houses very close to each other. Also the children of the marriages grew up to know each other really well, but this was only to be expected. Oddly each couple had only two children and in each case a boy and a girl. Jim and Lucy had twins, Gregory and Anna, Richard and Sandy had Sally who was two years older than Peter and finally Jane and Will were very happy with Mary, a year younger than Hugh. Also there were only four years between all six children. They were all grown up and married when early in 2014 it was known than Will was diagnosed with incurable pancreatic cancer. The families, and especially the five original friends were devastated. But the news spread to the financial world that the fabulously wealthy William …? was about to die. His lawer, Mr Jim….? was besieged by papparazzi all of whom wanted details of his will. Jim promised to give them this as soon as the testator had died. And most importantly the revenue authorities began to take an interest in his estate.
A meeting of the the six friends, would it be the last? was called in May 2014. “Listen, everyone, said Will, I have one last coup up my sleeve. As my surgeon, don’t look so sad, you will have to sign the death warrant Richard. Make it in beautiful copperplate handwriting. You Jim will read the will immediately after announcing my death, and the rest of you, plus those children who can make it, should crowd round the house in inconsolable grief. Okay? The vicar will bury me of course and my estate will be passed on to the following people exactly as I dictate it here.
“Firstly to the inland revenue I leave all taxes and duties due, which I have been assured is £5.6 billion sterling.
“To my wife Jane I leave my house and all it’s contents and the capital sum of £1.4 billion sterling. To Jim, Richard, Lucy and Sandy I leave £2 billion each and to each of my children and nephews and neices, I leave £ 300 million pounds each. The balance of my estate, some £ 200 million to various charities as written out here. And that, my friends, is that. Oh and of course we will have our usual Christmas week together, but just our generation not the kids.”
When Jim ran into the garden to break the news several people were galvanised into life. Sandy had done a wonderful job on Will and he looked nothing like himself as he was hustled onto a plane to Florence three hours later. She travelled with him.
Jim handled the press brilliantly and the mony side of things seemed sensible and fair to all parties and nobody questioned anything. The funeral was to be held five days later and Richard produced a beautiful death certificate which the lawyers, Lucy alone in this case, accepted without question.
The tax officials agreed with Will’s figures and were very happy with the death duties as his accountants had calculated them. In short everything had gone like a dream, when the £17 billion sterling was removed from the Swiss bank where it lay, and now multiplied by four as Will sold off all his South American oil shares in the gulf of Maracaibo. This left him with more than £50 billion sterling in his Geneva account, where such a sum in a business account was by no means unusual.
And so to the Christmas get together at the close of 2014. Seated at the wonderful oak table, circular as Arthur decreed, were three very happily married couples. Richard held his wife Jane’s hand tight under the tablecloth and their smiles were of pure delight at the thought of no more deceit.
Jim and Lucy were indeed doubly married, chuch and state, and seemed almost in another world as all their conniving of the past nearly fifty years had worked out perfectly. And last, but by no means least Will and Sandy just clung to each other as they raised their glasses in their beautiful sixteenth century villa at Lucca in Tuscany.
How and what had they done? Well it was easy really. As marriage in church was all that mattered to them, Sandy and Will and Richard and Jane had been thus married in 1974. What legal entanglemets they then entered into did not interest them a jot. They had tricked the revenue and lived as man and wife just as they wished.
Their children were great and willing partners in the various plans they worked out over the years and even helped at times. In fact by the time that Sandy and Will retired to Italy he really was the richest English commoner. And so when Will’s obituaries appeared in the papers it was quite true that nobody quite knew who he had been. Well, think of it. This was because he was still alive, and the six friends were begining a final retirement together with more money than anyone in the world would have believed.