My biggest mistake: Film Director Michael Winner: Winner picks a loser

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The Independent Online
"The first one was when I was taken - as if I was being anointed with class and quality - to Cazenove, the stockbrokers, in 1964. They looked at me as if I was an idiot and they were geniuses, and proceeded to buy for me a lot of shares that were a disaster. I lost about pounds 40,000, which was a lot of money in 1964.

What particularly annoyed me was that, at the same time, I was buying old Dutch paintings and Victorian paintings in auction, thinking they were a frivolity. And, of course, they increased terrifically in value, whereas the Cazenove shares were ridiculous. I had one share called Oshawa Wholesale, which I bought for pounds 5.50, and had to sell for 30p.

I was about 28 at the time and so, when I first met Cazenove people I was tremendously impressed - here were these very posh people in suits. I'd been recommended to see them by a peer of the realm and I felt as though I was being let into Valhalla.

But that experience did me one great favour about 10 or 15 years later, when my accountant was extolling the virtues of becoming a name at Lloyd's. A similarly arrogant, snooty man told me how wonderful it was to be in Lloyd's, and I was immediately unimpressed. I'd lost money with this type of human being before.

I heard the words `unlimited liability' and I said to my accountant: `Does that mean what I think it means - they can take everything if it goes down?' He said: `Well, yes, but it never goes down.' I said: `I wouldn't trust that man to buy me a bus ticket, so I'm certainly not giving him my money.' Then, of course, a few years later you had all the problems at Lloyd's.

My second mistake came in October 1987, when Adam Faith had a little share shop in Knightsbridge, and he was phoning me every day with advice. The annoying thing was that, at one point, I was up about pounds 90,000. I remember coming back to see Adam Faith when I'd finished making Appointment With Death, and he was in hospital. He'd just had bypass surgery.

I somehow knew that the stock market and the property market were about to crash. I said to Adam Faith: `You must sell these shares, because I think it's getting overheated.' He said: `Let's wait until we've got a pounds 100,000 profit.'

I'd have been quite happy to walk around London with a pounds 90,000 profit but, because you don't like to argue with a man who can hardly walk, I let it go. Two weeks later the market collapsed. Although I'd asked him to sell the shares, I'd never given a firm and definitive order to sell, and I lost about pounds 50,000.

The lesson you learn is that, when people ask you to buy something, they are not doing it for the good of your health. They're doing it because they are taking commission. Whatever day you go to a broker, he will say `buy' because, if he doesn't, he loses his commission. I view them with the gravest suspicion.

On the two occasions when I've bought shares since, I've relied on my own instincts, and I've done very well. I bought Guinness after the Crash, when their share price really collapsed for about six months, and I made about pounds 50,000 on Select TV, which got bought out after a year and a half of the shares going up and down like a yo-yo. Even with those, there were times when I thought I'd make a terrible error.

Now I rely on my art and antiques, and the money I get from real estate I put into utterly secure bonds. At the end of the day, the stuff I've bought in the art world also gives me pleasure - I've got it on the wall, so I get a double benefit."

Michael Winner was talking to Paul Slade

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