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Cash from chaos

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 the region's most experienced insolvency practitioner, David Merrygold from PKF East Anglia, cut his teeth in his chosen profession.

David's unique claim to fame is that he was instrumental in saving the Sex Pistols from financial disaster, so ensuring the band was still around 30 years later for their brief comeback in Brixton in November.

David, 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 who get into financial difficulties.

So he was in the right place and the right time when, in the late seventies, the London firm he then worked for was called in as court receivers to sort out the Sex Pistols' affairs.

By 1979 the band that put British punk on the map was collapsing in a welter of acrimony and chaos. Syd Vicious had committed suicide and the remaining band members were at loggerheads with their manager Malcolm McLaren over money.

"The partner who'd taken on the brief was an Old Etonian who didn't know much about pop music," recalls David.

"With me being in my twenties, he handed over the job to me."

A major part of the task was completing production of the band's full length film, called The Great Rock and Roll Swindle.

Although shooting had finished, money was still needed to finish and distribute the film. Few people were interested in backing the project, but finally David brokered a deal with Richard Branson, whose record label had signed the band.

With funding in place and production once again under way, David's 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. Although 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," remembers David.

Posters, T-shirts and all the other paraphernalia of pop, as well as record sales, generate the bulk of a rock band's income. Behind the scenes David 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."

David 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. 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 David went back into general insolvency work and a highly successful career, building a long list of grateful clients. In 1991 he joined PKF to set up what has since become one of the largest and most respected insolvency practices in the region.

You don't have to be an ambitious pop star to utilise the vast range of accountancy and business services on offer at PKF's offices in Ipswich, Great Yarmouth and Norwich. But whatever your business needs, you can be sure that PKF will be totally in tune.

Article by BDO LLP

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