Bob Diamond returns to City with deal to buy stockbroker Panmure. Or does he?

The former Barclays chief has created quite a noise with the planned takeover, but this should not be see as the return of the City's prodigal American son

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Bob’s back! The Diamond geezer has stepped away from his moneymaking ventures in Africa, returning to the City to gobble up a stockbroker alongside some royal mates from Qatar. Blimey. 

Panmure Gordon is the vehicle which, we are told, will drive Mr Diamond’s ambitions back in the smoke. Strike a light, because there are going to be some fun times ahead.  

Yes, thanks to the involvement of one of the world’s most famous financiers, a small London stockbroker managed to find its way to the top of everyone’s business news list on a quiet-ish Friday. 

However, while we media types got terribly excited because, well, Mr Diamond is a rare celebrity in the world of business and everyone loves celebrity, it’s doubtful that this really amounts to the return of the City’s prodigal American son as it is being portrayed. 

Mr Diamond, once branded the unacceptable face of banking by Lord Mandelson, is not even quoted in the deal’s announcement. That was left to Matthew Hansen, the head of UK and Europe for Atlas Marchant Capital, Mr Diamond’s takeover vehicle. 

That shouldn’t surprise anyone. You’d hardly expect the big cheese to be making bold statements about a deal valued at £15.5m struck in partnership with Panmure’s existing major shareholder, the Qatari investment bank QInvest. 

After all, Mr Diamond used to make more than £15.5m for a few months work while building up Barclays Capital, better known today as Barclays Investment Bank. 

This is not his attempt to cock a snook at Barclays, from which he departed as group chief executive in the wake of the Libor rigging scandal, by using Panmure to create BarCap 2.0. 

I’d imagine the boys and girls at Panmure would be delighted if he turned up to the odd board meeting so one or two of the younger analysts could get his autograph. In reality, they’ll have to make do with Mr Hansen, whose deal this really is. 

He and Atlas have acted chiefly because Panmure, which has had its problems, is going cheap. Even were it to be flying right now, it’s doubtful that the stock market would give it much credit. 

Small brokers have never been much loved by it at the best of times. They have a tendency to cycle through owners, public and private, doing a job for smaller companies, making a good living for people who don’t much like the atmosphere at bigger places (and who can blame them). 

I’d imagine Mr Diamond would derive a certain amount of personal satisfaction from Panmure stepping off that treadmill and becoming something of a force, turning into a boutique broker and investment bank with clout. But that’s as far as it goes.

It could happen, and it’s far more likely to do so with the business taken off the public company treadmill by owners willing to give it a bit of love and a lot of capital. 

You’d hope that most of the current staff are kept along for the ride. They’re a decent bunch, and that’s rare in the City.  

But while Mr Diamond is making a noise in the media, and will get the credit if it does happen, it will be down to others to do the work. 

Mr Diamond has bigger fish to fry. 

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