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Authors: Michelle Mone

My Fight to the Top (22 page)

BOOK: My Fight to the Top
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I came home to face the battle of my life. I went to war with Michael over the company and over our house. Michael refused to move out. Anyone reasonable who’d had an affair would have left me to have the house with the kids. But Michael had so much nerve. He told me that
I
had to move out and that
I
should get a flat.

‘How dare you make me get a flat,’ I said, ‘this is my home with my kids.’ I was determined that I wasn’t going to leave and I fought with him night and day. It was like
The War of the Roses
in which Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner try everything to get each other to leave the house and end up swinging from the chandelier. In fact, we had a massive chandelier ourselves – shipped over from Miami. It was so big that we had had to take the front door off to get it inside. We could have done a remake of that film, I swear to God: it was that awful.

It started as a race to the master bedroom. I was fed up of sleeping in the spare bedroom because it was really hurting my back. Why should he have the best bed in the house after everything? Whoever got to the bedroom first, got the bed. I would do things to wind him up. I put his favourite shirts and cufflinks in the bin. I took things that really meant a lot to him and chucked them out. I let down his car tyres. I cut holes in all his boxer shorts.

‘She’ll have to look at your holey arse now,’ I chuckled as he raged at me. I wanted to disrupt his life in every way possible because it made me feel better. I’ve never done anything like that in my life before. It was my way of getting my hurt out.

You’ve hurt me so badly. I’ve given you three amazing kids and 22 years of my life and I worked my arse off. I didn’t even have proper maternity leave and all you’ve done our whole married life is cause me grief. I should have left you so many times, you fucker, and now you’re going to have to pay a wee bit.

I remember overhearing Michael tell the kids he was going to a wedding with Sam. The next morning I waited for Michael to leave the kitchen and then I slipped some laxatives into his coffee. ‘Have a nice time,’ I said, smiling sweetly as he walked past me and reached for his cup. God only knows if it worked!

Michael probably did things to me too because quite a lot of my things went missing. We lived together under the same roof for eight months after we split up. Can you believe it? We would never be in the same room for longer than a few minutes though. We couldn’t be – we would have killed each other! He’d come in and I’d leave. I’d walk in and he’d storm off. Thank god Sam never stepped foot inside that house again. Who knows what would have happened? I offered to buy Michael out of the house at full market value.

‘Over my dead body are you ever going to get this house!’ he shouted.

‘I don’t understand you. You’re the one who caused this. Why can’t I buy my home from you? I want it as a base for me and the kids. You don’t want it,’ I said, trying to reason with him.

I would have redesigned it. I would have made it a new home. I wanted it because my priority was providing a stable place for the kids to live and making sure they were disrupted as little as possible.

In the end Michael and I agreed that we would alternate weeks at the house. I would spend one week in a hotel and he would spend one week at his parents’ place. The day I was to leave, Michael was a total prick to me. He really upset me but instead of going to my room and crying, I got even.

I crept up to the master bedroom and I pulled back the luxurious throw. I got a bucket of water, and threw it over Michael’s side of the bed. It was soaking wet. I made the bed again and placed the pillows perfectly with the zips down. I left the house and an hour or so later I received raging text messages: ‘You fucking bitch. My side of the bed is soaking wet. I’m going to phone the police and have you arrested.’

‘Give it your best shot,’ I said, laughing. The kids phoned to ask why I did it. ‘He deserves it,’ I said. I couldn’t believe Michael was going to my kids after what he had done with my designer.

But looking back, I can see I was going through a very selfish time when I only cared about getting back at Michael. My priority was the children and I should have thought more about the effect it would have on them. Those things I did upset my kids and I didn’t mean to upset them when it was Michael I wanted to get to. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. I have said I never regret anything in life but maybe I shouldn’t have done those things. I can say now that revenge isn’t worth it because it just comes back to bite you on the arse. I ended up becoming the bad one when I wasn’t in the beginning.

It wasn’t my only battle. I was also fighting Michael for the company that I’d created in 1996. Who was going to buy who out? We went to war in the day and again in the evening, just as we had been doing privately for years. But now our fight had become public and the company value crashed through the floor. It was like someone had thrown a grenade into our business. The buyers didn’t know what was going on so they didn’t order stock. No decisions were made within the office. It was awful for the brand.

Then all of a sudden, Michael dealt a low blow. ‘You’re fired,’ he said, pointing his finger at me as if he was Lord Alan Sugar. ‘I’ve got one share more than you,’ he smirked. Michael had 48 per cent and I had 47 per cent.

How the hell did that happen?

Michael dealt with all the legal side of things, so it must have been when we bought Tom Hunter and Ian Grabiner out. There had been an extra share floating about. ‘Fuck you,’ I spat. The gloves were off.

Michael may have had one more share than me, but he didn’t have enough to control the business. He needed more than 50 per cent to be making decisions like that. I needed to find an ally – I needed to get Tom Walker on my side. Tom was a silent shareholder who owned 5 per cent. He’d come on board at the same time as Tom Hunter and Ian, but he hadn’t wanted to be bought out in 2004.

Tom could go with me or he could go with Michael.

I managed to convince him to back me and together we had more power than Michael.

Take that, you fucker.

Round two involved Michael trying to buy me out. ‘Go for it, you’ll never raise the money,’ I said. I then tried to buy Michael out, but he wanted a ridiculous sum.

For the first time in my life, I began to drink. I downed a bottle of white wine a night to numb the pain. I would cry myself to sleep and some nights, when I couldn’t bear to be alone, I would crawl into Rebecca’s bed. I was in a very dark, lonely place, but I had to fight for survival and I had to fight for my kids and my family – and for the company too.

I brought all the team together and I said, ‘Listen, guys, I’m going to save your jobs,’ I promised. They were so worried; they had bills to pay and families to support. ‘I promise you with all my heart.’ I fought back the tears.

Whatever punch Michael threw, I still got up the next day ready for battle. I’d fight all day long. You’re not going to kill me, I thought. Michael may have been a university graduate and he may have been more intelligent than me, but I had more fight than him and more stamina. It was like the biggest boxing match in history.

Round three – the company went up for sale. Offers came flooding in from people who wanted to work with me alone and not Michael. One of the four main contenders wanted me to move to Hong Kong so that was a ‘No’ because I would never leave my kids.

‘I want you to sign this. It’s our only way out,’ Michael shouted about the offer. He was going mental over it. Michael was desperate for the company to be sold because we had director guarantees with the bank. What that meant was, if I didn’t buy Michael out, he was going to have to write the bank a big cheque for a million quid.

‘I’m not signing,’ I said and crossed my arms. There was no way I was agreeing to it because all these buyers wanted to lock me in with them and I didn’t like them enough to give Michael a free ticket out of jail. ‘I’m not doing it your way,’ I said and stamped my foot. ‘You want me to sign up with anyone that will give you the money but you don’t give a shit that I have to work with them for several years while you get away.’

The company continued to fall to pieces and the banks were getting concerned. We didn’t have long until we went under. When I closed my eyes I could see it crashing all the way to the bottom. It was just the way it had been all those years ago with the stock problems.

History was repeating itself.

24
BRA WARS

Life is like a marathon. You just have to keep going until you reach that line.


I
’m going to Sri Lanka,’ I announced to my mum when I phoned her from the plane. I was minutes from take off. A request had come through in October 2012 for me to give one of my motivational speeches. I jumped at the chance to get away from the chaos, if only for a few days.

‘No, you’re not. You’re about to lose your company. You’re about to lose your life. You can’t do this speech,’ she screeched.

‘Mum, I need to go. I love you and I’ll see you when I’m back.’ I hung up. Something inside me was saying I needed to go. I trusted my instinct. It turned out to be a hell of a journey as I was delayed in my stop over in Dubai and then I got stuck in a three-hour traffic jam to my hotel. I’d been travelling for 24 hours and was desperate for a shower and a change of clothes when the hosts broke the news that I had to be on stage in ten minutes.

I rushed to the toilet to throw up. I looked awful. But there was no time to do my hair and my make-up; I just had to get out there and get on with it. I was running on empty as I made my way up on stage. The room fell silent as hundreds of eyes locked onto me, waiting for me to speak. I took a deep breath and stepped into the spotlight. I gave them the speech of my life.

‘In the next few months, I don’t know where I’ll be. I don’t know if the company will still be there,’ I said as I fought back the tears. ‘But what I do know is that I’m so passionate about the brand.’ I spoke from the heart. I told them my story and there were people in the audience crying as I described how hard I’d had to fight.

As I left the stage, the organisers of the event led me down the hall to meet someone who had the potential to help me.

He reached his hand out and said ‘I’m Mahesh Amalean, I chair the board of MAS Holdings, we manufacture intimate apparel for some of the biggest brands around the world.’ Mahesh was in his late 50s and such a gentleman.

I knew immediately that I wanted to work with him. He was the missing piece in the jigsaw.

I flew back to Glasgow with a fire in my belly. I’d reached a point where I knew I had to take control of myself and fight for what was mine. No one was going to take away what I’d worked so hard to achieve, what I’d sacrificed so much for.

MAS started due diligence, the audit that any company has to undergo before investment. We had just a week left to go before due diligence was complete when Michael found out about MAS. The boxing gloves were back on as Michael dug his heels in and started making demands for more money and different conditions. I needed the help of the bank. I called an emergency meeting at HSBC in February 2013.

I’ll never forget that day as long as I live. Ultimo was literally weeks away from going under and my future, as well as that of the brand, hinged on whether I could get Michael to leave. I woke up and threw on my armour for one last fight. I wore a sharply tailored suit that spoke volumes – it said, ‘Don’t mess with me’. I walked into that boardroom like I was walking onto a battlefield.

‘We are weeks from going under and, Michael, you don’t have another offer on the table,’ I said.

I had lit his fuse. ‘I don’t care,’ he said and started to list what he wanted.

‘Well, you’re not in a position to want things,’ I interrupted. I reasoned with HSBC. ‘Look, if Michael doesn’t leave, MAS won’t buy in and if they don’t buy in, this company will go under and you’ll lose money,’ I told the directors.

The bank had to decide who to support. You could have cut the atmosphere with a knife. There was so much tension. I took a sip of water and glanced across to Michael. He was looking daggers at me.

‘Okay, we’ve decided,’ one of the directors said at last, shuffling his papers in order. They turned to Michael, ‘You’ve got no other offers on the table so we back Michelle to go through with this offer from MAS.’

Yes. Victory.

In a nutshell, Michael was told by the bank to behave and to be fair otherwise he would have to write them a cheque for £1m. We agreed that I would buy Michael’s shares and sell them on to MAS.

But Michael just couldn’t admit defeat. ‘Okay, I’ll sell you my shares but I want you to sign a non-embarrassment clause.’ This meant that if I sold his shares within a certain amount of time – he specified three years – I had to give him half the profit.

I’d had enough. My blood boiled. ‘I’m not signing anything like that,’ I said, pointing at his face. It was frightening to watch his reaction.

I bought Michael out at 10 o’clock in the morning. I’ll never disclose what I bought Michael out for. All I will say is that the papers reported it was £24m and that isn’t true. I don’t know where they got that figure from.

We also agreed the paperwork for our divorce that same morning. I just wanted it all out of the way so I wouldn’t have to deal with him again. We decided to put our house up for sale. That was almost the final time I saw Michael.

It was only half the battle won though. I still had to close the deal with MAS Holdings that afternoon. MAS had a list of requests to fulfill before they would buy Michael’s shares and that included the resignation of board member Scott Kilday, my operations director of 12 years. I’d explained to Scott on the run up to the meeting that it wasn’t personal: ‘Scott, MAS have asked you to resign as a board director because they don’t want anyone on the board who they don’t know. If you get to know them you’ve got a great future ahead of you but right now there won’t be a job at all unless you resign.’

Scott had agreed and, what was more, he’d gone out of his way to thank me for saving his job as his wife was about to have a third baby. I’d considered the matter done and dusted – that was, until we were minutes from wrapping up.

BOOK: My Fight to the Top
3.8Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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