Anthony Hilton: Basham to trigger small-cap revival

The name Brian Basham probably does not mean much to the current generation of financial PR experts, but in his day he was top of the pile.

If John Addey's was the firm of the 1970s, bright as a comet before burning out, Basham, who had worked for Addey,  ran the firm of the 1980s. 

He was involved in almost all the big deals of the time – Hanson and United Biscuits' bid for Imperial Group,  Argyll's unsuccessful battle with Guinness for Distillers –  and had on-off relationships with Mohamed Al Fayed and Robert Maxwell. In the era of the Friday-night drop, he dropped. But it was his role as external adviser to British Airways during the 'dirty tricks' campaign against Virgin that lured him into the quicksand from which there is no dignified escape – the PR man had become the story.

So Basham turned his back on the business and started Equity Holdings, producing research on the hundreds of smaller companies neglected by the analysts at the big firms because there was not enough business in the shares to justify their expense.  Basham resolved this by getting  the smaller companies themselves to finance the research. It sounds odd, but is no different in principle to the activity of credit-rating agencies such as Standard & Poor's – their business model also involves companies paying them to conduct research and make an assessment.

Anyway, the point is that this week Basham made another million when he sold Equity Development to ADVFN, Europe's leading stocks and shares website. ADVFN has distribution – investors  come to it seeking information – and Equity Development supplies information that would be hard to get elsewhere. If it works it could lead to a revival of interest and trading in smaller-cap companies.

anthony.hilton@haynet.com

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