The film’s called Pacific Heights. It’s not Oscar worthy, but it’s Friday night popcorn and beer entertainment, with a different kind of horror story.
At the heart of it, the movie is about money. Financial hardship caused by buying a house.
The plot is simple enough, some would say a little thin; a cute couple, played by Matthew Modine and Melanie Griffiths, buy a house they can’t afford on their own. The only way to make it work is by renting out two ground floor apartments.
So they set about trying to find people suitable to fill them, eventually settling on a nice Japanese couple for the first, and coming awfully close to letting the second out to an earnest black man who thinks the colour of his skin might count against him.
He submits the application, which gets lost as the Japanese family moves in, trampling through the halls and making a mess. When said application doesn’t turn up the couple assumes he’s changed his mind, and it’s at that moment Carter turns up, driving a Porsche.
Carter (played superbly by Michael Keaton) wants the apartment. He’s well heeled, and flashes a wedge. He leaves personal references and vanishes without signing a lease or paying a penny. Shortly thereafter, he returns in the morning and basically moves in, telling Griffiths he’s squared it with Modine.
He hasn’t. But he makes big bold claims about his trust fund and flashes more money.
He promises to have the first few months’ rent squared away in a week.
Then he vanishes again, in his shiny black ride. Days go by. Then a week has past.
Modine goes down to the apartment to check it out and finds an odd looking dude living there … not Carter, who is “away on business.”
Modine does, at that point, what anyone would do and loses it, especially when he finds out they’ve changed the locks and like drilling at 3:00 am.
The scam is pretty simple.
According to California state law, once Carter is inside the apartment he has all the rights of a fully paid up tenant and over the course of the movie he slowly strangles the life out of Modine and Griffiths, trying to ruin them financially.
Before long, he’s well on top. He has succeeded in forcing the Japanese couple to leave (late night drilling is one thing; but he breeds cockroaches too and lets them loose into the next door unit) and even in getting a restraining order against his landlord.
His objective is to prise the house away from them, and it’s not the first time he’s done it to someone.
In fact, it’s his day job.
“For him it’s business as usual,” Modine morosely tells Griffiths one drunk night, after he’s heard Carter outline the plan to his mate. “This is what he does for a living.”
Indeed it is. Carter is a scam artist par excellence, and I’ve thought about him, and I’ve thought about that film, a lot from the hour Craig Whyte took over Rangers. The parallels are pretty obvious, and will become even clearer as the looming court case goes on.
Leeching the life out of companies and individuals is precisely what some people do for a living, and they make good money crushing the dreams of others. For all that, I don’t think these guys get any pleasure or satisfaction out of that side of it.
This is just about the bottom line. Cold hard cash.
Mike Ashley isn’t a scam artist. He’s made his money legitimately, which is why he must find Dave King’s constant moralising tiresome and even offensive. Because King is more Carter than he is; the series of offences for which the South African government went after him, and to which he pled guilty, are right out of the Wolf of Wall Street.
He artificially inflated the price of one of his companies and then cashed out, leaving the shareholders with nothing. He then salted that cash away out of reach – or so he thought – of the tax man.
For all his bombast though, Dave King is essentially small fry.
The media here might go goo-goo over his swanky South African pad, but then they were having the same conniptions over Craig Whyte and his castle when this whole saga began, and now take great delight in telling us that, in fact, he didn’t have a pot to piss in then or now.
King is probably wealthier than Whyte.
I use that word carefully, because there are things I know about Whyte and things I can guess which I’m not legally permitted to write here. Somewhere else, some other time, for sure … but not here, and not now.
King certainly has money, but he doesn’t have enough of to do half what he claimed he would at Ibrox.
The gap between rhetoric and reality has only just started to become clear to Sevco fans.
I’ve always found it terribly ironic that what these fans have longed for most is a genuine billionaire with a genuine interest in football at their club, and when they got exactly that it was in a form they didn’t expect and didn’t particularly like.
Because Ashley is everything King is not.
He’s respected as a businessman, phenomenally successful, a gambler who plays big odds with real-life off the radar wealth and if he went to the stock market to float a company he would bring with him a ton of credibility and wouldn’t have to fudge the figures. He would set a target and probably get every single penny from the “institutional investors.”
Furthermore, Ashley could, quite literally, fix much of what’s wrong with Sevco out of his petty cash.
Did he once want to? Oh, I very much doubt it.
He saw them for what they were; a light snack, a way to make a few million in sales, as just another company in his portfolio. He saw a huge advertising hoarding for his flagship enterprise, attained dirt cheap.
He’s a businessman. He saw a chance to turn a profit.
He was never particularly likely to catch Rangersitus or any of the other notable afflictions in this saga.
But he could have been convinced to play nice.
He could have been made to feel welcome, and for his contribution to have been appreciated.
He was the guy who kept the lights on last season, and without him there would have been little to stop Sevco from going the way of the club that died.
At the time he had a merchandising deal. Over the last couple of years, he got his hands on other items and the fans are in uproar that he was allowed to. Yet, those other items were all that was available as collateral at the time. They forget that in their anger, stirred up by a media that either lost sight of the big picture or was too dumb to see it.
In short, this guy saw money but had no bad intentions.
That didn’t suit the narrative King and others wanted to build. They needed to paint the old board as an enemy of the club itself, and Ashley was little more than a stick to beat them with.
I am sure he realised that at the start. It’s why he was originally willing to negotiate and work out some kind of compromise, if it left his people on the board, where his interests could be protected.
He probably thought King was playing to the gallery, nothing more.
But King wasn’t.
King is an arrogant, spitefil sod, a man motivated, in part, by a belief in his own bull. He blusters because he thinks he’s right and everyone else is wrong, even when he knows what he’s saying is groundless nonsense.
It’s a character flaw, a dangerous one at that, one that means this guy can never be fully trusted.
Somewhere along the line, whatever the initial motivation, King really did start to view Ashley as more than just a boardroom problem. Whether it was envy or natural spite or whatever, he started to see things in the way he sees Celtic; not as something to aspire to or overcome, but as something to hate, something standing in his way of his own self image.
And I marvelled at that on this very site.
I wondered just what in the Hell Dave King thought he was doing, in butting heads with a guy who could, if he was so minded, make the next 12 months of Sevco’s life utterly impossible before he pulled the plug.
I wrote an article called Making Enemies, where I expressed my view that to piss this guy off too much would be the summit of madness and invite retribution. I quote Mario Puzo’s The Godfather to illustrate the point.
There’s a similar moment in Pacific Heights, where Modine and Griffiths find a lawyer willing to help them and she gives them the news outside the courtroom after they’ve lost the first skirmish. She tells Griffiths, for her own good, that they should walk away. Put the house up for sale, take the financial hit and get on with their lives.
“It’s nothing personal,” she tells Griffiths. “God forbid he ever makes it personal.”
Which brings us to today’s stories, which reveal that Ashley wants to haul King into court for breaching the confidentially agreement that exists between Sevco and Sports Direct.
I’m not surprised by it, not even a little, although the story appears somewhat older than Keith “Exclusive” Jackson would have you believe.
In fact, King has been courting this kind of disaster for months, almost as if he’s on a self-destructive course that he can’t seem to break free of. His public comments have been inviting it, egging Ashley on.
It was reckless and it was stupid, and it was always going to end in tears.
He’s made an enemy, which is what he seemed to want to do, and if I struggle to understand just what King’s endgame is at Ibrox, with no visible means of success, I find this even more mystifying, because it truly is a battle without hope of victory.
Ashley is now making it personal, because King has forced him to.
Sevco fans should be concerned with that because he’s taking it out, in part, on their club.
If it was a simple issue between Ashley and their absentee chairman their supporters could simply let the two of them get on with it, but it’s not how things are. King’s position on the board is part of it, but he’s attacking Ashley “on their behalf” without a plan.
Incredibly, most of their fans are cheering this on.
Indeed, a number of their supporter’s organisations seem just as determined to force their way onto Ashley’s radar with fake shirts and alternative merchandise. They’ve tried their lousy, pathetic, One Pound Protest and they’ve said they won’t buy official club products, although there seem to be a lot of replica strips in the stands.
Ashley’s people seem happy with the current deals.
They’re making money in spite of the “official boycott.”
That’s why they’ll be nearly impossible to shift.
There’s one bonkers suggestion doing the rounds at the moment about what fans are calling Stink Bomb Saturday, targeting Sports Direct shops.
Idiocy, proposed by idiots.
All this is the height of folly, whether the behaviour of the fans or King himself.
Poking a dangerous animal with a stick like this can only end in disaster.
How can they be this stupid, with their club already hanging by a thread?
King has invested precisely nothing; they’re floating on soft loans and nothing else, and those are being provided by other existing directors. All he seems to have brought to the table is a big mouth a world of trouble, and the situation is now threatening to get out of control.
Sevco doesn’t have the resources for a minor skirmish with Ashley, let alone a full-on war.
They’ve antagonised a man who holds their future in the palm of his hand. He knows they’ve not got the money to pay back the £5 million loan, and he can make it so they never do. If he decides to, he can launch a legal battle every single day, sucking them dry in the process.
They will be swallowed whole, and what goes in one end will come out the other in a form most definitely not to their liking.
If I were in their shoes this is the last guy’s leg I’d be pissing up.
They seem determined to try.
And for that, they’ve got all the trouble in the world coming their way.
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