Tuesday, April 21

Martin And The Death Business

Here is my man Martin, who I will see at noon-time shortly to work on a ham-string pull. Martin has devised a punishing cross-training program for London Sunday, and eventually we will focus on Berlin (which will not be in fancy costume). So the world focused on Susan Boyle and I have to ask: who the f*** is she? Well, turns out she is A) butt ugly; and B) has a lovely singing voice. Bloggers, like me, go nuts - ooo we are all so shallow for thinking she a dud because she is unattractive .. and before her "Britain's Got Talent" performance, she was booed and heckled .. then a standing ovation and tears from the judges Piers Morgan, Simon Cowell and Amanda Holden who, BTW, is only a judge because she is hot. And while it is nice to listen to Boyle's "I Dreamed A Dream" from Les Mis, there is plenty of better stuff in London - tonight, for instance, we are at Cadogen Hall to see the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Opus 60 (Concert 3 of 4) by Grzegorz Nowak and Emer McDonough; the programme is Mozart: Flute Concerto No.1 and Schumann: Symphony No.3, ‘Rhenish.’ And I could really give a toss about Boyle's appearance.. nor do I care if Mozart performed by trolls, though it would be something to talk about during intermission.

Since Sonnet and I invested in the largest funeral services business in France, OGF, I am learning snippits about the industry. Did you know, for instance, that cremations in France account for ~30% of "disposals" or up from 20% 15 years ago? (in the US, it is 37%, up from 25% in 2000). A growing trend since cremations cost less than the traditional burial causing, no doubt, grief (for the mortician) - modern revenue streams now include "organics," media-histories, and "in-house services" (the backyard? I wonder). Also, death turns out to be a cyclical business - some years more, others less but always a reversion to the mean of approximately 2% the French population .. and the anticipated number of deaths called, matter-of-factly, the "inventory." We bought OGF in a favorable down-cycle following the summer of '04 when a hot French summer resulted in an increased inventory - sadly (and shockingly), many elderly succumbed for lack of air-conditioning or ventilation. Today, this being worked through OGF's cashflow statement. I recently met OGF's CEO and he is not exactly what I would imagine - no black skinny tie nor accompanying black fitted suit .. yes, a bit dour and certainly, too, a sales-man. He knows his business like anybody and came up through the ranks. In short, a company man who could easily be drinking three martini's at lunch then commuting home to Connecticut on the New Canaan line from Grand Central. Of greater importance, this fellow has a genuine understanding of a complex, emotional and necessary service - and so far since us, OGF beating its acquisition budgets .. so yes, it appears recession proof so far. I must ask, however, if not - then what?