Accountant who helped the Sex Pistols
“SEX and drugs and rock-n-roll” is not a phrase usually associated with the world of accountancy.But it was through the anarchic world of punk rock that one of the eastern region's most experienced insolvency practitioner, David Merrygold, of PKF East Anglia, cut his teeth in his chosen profession.
“SEX and drugs and rock-n-roll” is not a phrase usually associated with the world of accountancy.
But it was through the anarchic world of punk rock that one of the eastern region's most experienced insolvency practitioner, David Merrygold, of PKF East Anglia, cut his teeth in his chosen profession.
His unique claim to fame is that he was instrumental in saving the Sex Pistols from financial disaster, so helping to ensure the band was still around 30 years later for their brief comeback in Brixton in November.
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Mr Merrygold, 55, started his PKF career in Colchester and is now based in Ipswich. Right from the start he has specialised in rescuing companies or individuals from financial difficulty.
And he was in the right place and the right time when, in the late 1970s, the London firm he then worked for was called in as court receiver to sort out the Sex Pistols' affairs.
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By 1979 the band that put British punk on the map was collapsing in acrimony and chaos. Sid Vicious had died from a heroin overdose and the remaining band members were at loggerheads with their manager Malcolm McLaren over money.
A major part of the task facing Mr Merrygold was to enable the production of the band's full length film, The Great Rock and Roll Swindle, to be completed.
Although shooting had finished, money was still needed to finish and distribute the film. Few people were interested in backing the project, but finally Mr Merrygold brokered a deal with (now Sir) Richard Branson, whose record label had signed the band.
With funding in place and production once again under way, his second hurdle was to get the film past the censors.
“That wasn't easy, given the Sex Pistols' reputation for outrageous behaviour, but we managed it in the end,” he says.
“Actually, a lot of their image was just that - an image. They were just a bunch of lads. Frankly, any rugby tour would probably have got up to behaviour equally as bad.”
Posters, T-shirts and all the other paraphernalia of pop, as well as record sales, generate the bulk of a rock band's income and, behind the scenes, Mr Merrygold made sure that every record and merchandising deal worked hard to rebuild the band's fortunes.
“A colleague and I were walking through Soho dressed in our city suits and passed a punk in full regalia - ripped 'Anarchy in the UK' T-shirt and safety pins in every part of his body - who was yelling insults at us,” says David.
“I turned to my colleague and said 'Do you realise how much that kid is worth to us? For the T-shirt we get a 50p royalty. We get another 20p from his belt.'
“So there was this lad thinking he was a class rebel and anarchist, but the band he thought so much of was actually being rescued by the two city gents he was shouting abuse at.”
Mr Merrygold's philosophy is that any organisation can be saved from financial disaster if help is called for early enough. He also believes that getting the right people involved in a rescue attempt is a key way of winning goodwill and turning the situation around.
“In my view, one secret of success is to find and listen to the people who know what they're doing and can make things happen for you,” he says.
“We got the right people involved, including Martin Campbell, in saving the Sex Pistols' film. Many years later Martin directed two of the Bond movies.
“The other secret is to set your goals at the start and then work towards them without becoming distracted. Our goal was to make the band money.
“Although cutting deals, making records and working in the pop industry might seem glamorous it was still an insolvency job, saving a product and service.”
With the Sex Pistols on the road to recovery, Mr Merrygold went back into general insolvency work and a highly successful career. In 1991 he joined PKF to set up what has since become one of the largest insolvency practices in the region.
But as his early career demonstrates, you don't have to be running a business to need an accountant.