Friday, May 27, 2005

Come On You Reds!

The first real job of my career was working as an interior designer for a company in Liverpool UK. That company was owned by a great man, Sir John Moores. Mr John (as he was known by us plebs), pretty much owned Liverpool FC. He also had a holding in Everton. None of this was Malcolm Glazer-ish, it was just supporting the community that had helped you become a gazillionaire (Sir John was the richest bloke in Britain at that time, but not affected by it).

One day, I got into the lift to hit the twelfth floor where I worked. I was wearing a grey business suit and (because I am a designer carrying a full artistic licence) a pair of red patent leather shoes.

Mr John entered the lift. Looked at my shoes. Shit, I thought, gonna get fired!

Mr John just said 'Liverpool fan, eh?' To which I had to reply 'no sir, Donny Rovers sir!'.
As I left the lift, he said 'I love the shoes'.

Littlewoods was a very interesting company. Deliberately not smart and not stylish, it appealed to the 'lower classes', and didn't make them feel uncomfortable. Their main cash earner was football pools, then mail order catalogues, and then the chain stores. There was always a feeling that the High Street stores were there to lose a bit of money for the group to reduce its tax bill. Well maybe, but it was real work for us folks involved in it.

Littlewoods was nominally a PLC (Public Liability Company, shares supposedly traded on the open market), but you could only buy or sell shares if you were a member of the Moores family. Mr John was getting on, and was trying to figure out his succession. Various sons were tried out as Managing Director, and all failed. The company then went through a succession of MDs brought in fom outside, none of whom lasted a year.

In the background, I had first come to Liverpool through various community schemes. One of the great supporters of community activity in Liverpool was John Junior (son of Mr John). He had been tried as MD and failed. But he used to host a monthly lunch for community groups on the executive floor of the HQ building. I got invited to one of these. I don't think JJ knew that I was actually working for the enemy company.

And the guys in my department (Gordon, Clive, where are you now?) were most interested in knowing where I'd been that day when I disappeared for two or three hours. I was only upstairs.

I've kind of lost track of where Littlewoods is at now - I suspect that it's all been (or is being) sold off. But it was good fun while it lasted, you could wear red patent leather shoes and get away with it!