"When the music stops, in terms of liquidity, things will be complicated. But as long as the music is playing, you've got to get up and dance. We're still dancing." There is really no other candidate for the business quote of the year than these wise words from Citigroup's chief executive Chuck Prince. He was still at the disco when he said this in July, just before the market froze. But up to $11bn in writedowns exposed Mr Prince's two left feet and he was out of a job by the end of November.
Mervyn King will be glad 2007 is over. But if more people had listened to the Governor of the Bank of England in June, we might not be in such a bad state.
"It may say champagne AAA on the label of an increasing number of structured credit instruments," he said in his Mansion House speech. "But by the time investors get to what's left in the bottle, it could taste rather flat.... Excessive leverage is the common theme of many financial crises of the past. Are we really so much cleverer than the financiers of the past?"
Still, spare a thought for the bankers. As Sir Fred Goodwin put it after finally revealing Royal Bank of Scotland's 1.5bn of writedowns: "The second half was not a barrel of laughs." The RBS chief executive recalled a more innocent age when he added that things had not been "beer and skittles".
The reverberations from the near implosion of Northern Rock damaged the UK's reputation as a financial centre. Richard Lambert, director general of the Confederation of British Industry, caught the mood: "Outside the movies, a run on a bank is something that happens in a banana republic. That one should have happened, under our noses, in a mature and prosperous country like the UK, is almost unimaginable."
And Samuel Molinaro, chief financial officer of Bear Stearns, unwittingly coined a catchphrase on a call with analysts as the US bank's hedge funds collapsed in early August. After the chief executive James Cayne delivered a reassuring statement, an analyst's question was met with silence, followed by Mr Molinaro saying: "Jimmy stepped out of the room." Mr Cayne may just have been arranging one of his many games of bridge or golf, but the market took fright and the "Jimmy stepped out of the room" moment was born.
Private equity was another industry that dominated the headlines this year. Nicholas Ferguson, chairman of SVG Capital and arguably a founding father of the sector in the UK, was thrust into the spotlight with the words: "Any common sense person would say that a highly paid private equity executive paying less tax than a cleaning lady or other low-paid workers, that can't be right." The timing could not have been worse, as it came at the height of the public fury at the industry and provided fodder to unions and politicians just days before top figures received a televised grilling by the Treasury Select Committee. The upshot was Alistair Darling's controversial proposal for a new capital gains tax regime.
Over in the music industry, the entrepreneur Guy Hands also caused a storm after telling EMI employees, shortly after his takeover, that the company needed to be "more selective in whom we choose to work with" as some artists only focus "on negotiating for the maximum advance ... advances which are often never repaid". But Paul McCartney, who is now with Starbucks' record label, bit back: "Everybody at EMI had become part of the furniture. I'd be a couch; Coldplay are an armchair. And Robbie Williams, I dread to think what he was. But the most important thing was, I'd felt [the people at EMI] had becomereally very boring, you know?"
Mike Ashley started the year known as "the secretive billionaire". But the retailer and founder of the Sports Direct empire has gradually warmed up to life in the public eye and has become increasingly strident in his attacks on the City. In July, after the share price tanked and analysts were bemoaning the lack of information from the company, Mr Ashley declared: "I've got balls of steel. Some investors have been great and have been very supportive. But some of these City people act like a bunch of cry babies."
Naguib Sawiris, head of Orascom, cut through the jargon at the mobile phone industry's 3GSM conference, dismissing his contemporaries' mumblings about customer experience and the social benefits of mob-ile phones: "For me it's about the money... Where I smell money, I go."
Fondly recalling his six eventful years as chairman of BT to analysts at the company's half-year results presentation, Sir Christopher Bland said: "I will miss this twice-yearly theatre of cruelty but I can always go to an RSC performance of Titus Andronicus."
Meanwhile, the media tycoon Rupert Murdoch said of the backlash that followed his eventually successful bid for Dow Jones: "I spent the better part of the past three months enduring criticism that's normally levelled at some kind of genocidal tyrant."
And we will finish with the words of Conrad Black. Several months after he was found guilty of defrauding outside shareholders in his newspaper company but before being sentenced for the crime he told the BBC: "If I appeared and sounded humble, I would be described as a broken, disgraced man who is admitting he's a criminal. Well, the fact is I am innocent. When you are innocent and when you are wrongly accused, how do you conduct yourself? Do you roll over and say, 'Well, I'm innocent, but since I've been found guilty, I'm going to be humble and full of remorse?' I would have thought not." Just a few weeks later he was sent to a US prison for six and a half years.Reuse content