Who would lose £1million on the toss of a coin?

Here is the scene; I set up a ‘summit’ meeting (my particular speciality) for the sale of two super luxury penthouses, in a landmark development overlooking the City of London, in the middle of Hampstead Heath, between the buyer, the late Cyril Dennis and my developer client. Mr. Dennis needed a penthouse for himself and another for his friend. The only problem was that he had just an hour reserved for the meeting, before he had to fly away on his private jet.

All was going ‘swimmingly’ between them, until we reached a ‘price gap impasse’ which was a £1million (in today’s money) when both parties became entrenched, in their own obduracy. No amount of my 41 years of applied salesmanship, or ‘shmooze’, would provoke any movement from either of them and time was running out for all of us!

The purchaser pleaded that he had to catch his plane and, as a result, I was naturally concerned that the crescendo of the moment would be irretrievably lost, if the meeting had ended ignominiously, without a result.

Having run out of ‘tricks up my sleeve’ and exhausted all the usual methods of mediation, which had served me well in the past, I became desperate and felt that I had only one final ‘throw of the dice’.

I pleaded with both parties to allow me to ‘spin a coin’ for the difference!  They looked at me aghast. Needless to say, the banter, which was running thick and fast up until then, stopped immediately and instead was filled with a hushed silence, as I took the coin out of my pocket to demonstrate that it wasn’t two sided. I sought their agreement to ‘spin’ for the equivalent of £1million, which they somewhat, reluctantly, agreed to do, can you blame them?

I caught the coin in my hand and there was a heart-stopping moment, when I slowly revealed whether it was heads or tails. The air was heavy with anticipation. Sadly, my client developer lost, and the purchaser was ‘whisked off’ by his chauffeur to catch his plane. It is not often that you can ‘spin’ for such a sizeable amount of money and the purchaser definitely looked like ‘the cat that had got the cream!’

To be fair to the developer, he was true to his word and honoured the result by consolidating the deal by exchanging contracts shortly afterwards.

I must confess that this ‘penalty shoot-out’ method of bringing a meeting to a crescendo is not my usual modus operandi but it worked magnificently in this particular case and both sides kept slavishly to their word, good for them.