"Kuwaiti and Iraqi negotiators began talks in Saudi Arabia on their oil and border dispute, while Persian Gulf-based diplomats said Iraq had massed 100,000 troops on Kuwait's border. The diplomats said the Iraqi force, triple the number earlier reported, included about 300 Soviet-made tanks."
News report Aug. 1, 1990
With the potential for war with Iraq looming near the end of 2002, Iain A. Watt's once-prophetic viewpoint will be missed. Besides, he always liked a good pizza.
Mr. Watt was forced to resign in November as chief executive officer of Edinburgh Fund Managers in Scotland after key shareholders lost confidence in him.
Mr. Watt had a fondness for pizza. Whenever he visited Chicago, he eschewed more conventional business luncheon venues, preferring instead to eat a deep-dish, stuffed pizza.
And he always had interesting views on the global markets.
The most memorable was in July 1990. Seated at an outdoor table at Pizzeria Uno, Mr. Watt predicted the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the potential implications. He didn't want to discuss how, if in any way, EFM was adjusting its portfolios as a result. But he was unequivocal in his prediction.
A week later, an Aug. 2 news report stated, "Iraqi troops crossed into Kuwait."
Upon hearing the news, the first thing that came to mind was Mr. Watt's prediction.
Mr. Watt also was colorful in his investment descriptions.
In April 1992, Mr. Watt was quoted in Pensions & Investments about his views on the then near-term outlook for Japan, whose stock market had fallen 57% in the previous 30 months.
"It's a slow, dripping torture," Mr. Watt said at the time.
"We sold out of Japan in late 1989 because interest rates began increasing," Mr. Watt said. "Now we are buying back because interest rates are declining. ... We've been moving money back into Japan in a big way. In the short term, that hasn't been too clever."
Ten years later, one could say Japan has been a "long dripping torture."
As part of the recent shakeup of Edinburgh Fund Managers, the company has pulled out of the North American institutional market, closing offices in Toronto and Atlanta. Declining profits apparently made that institutional market untenable for the firm, which now will focus on the U.K. institutional business from its base in Scotland.
EFM had entered the U.S. institutional market in 1985 through a joint venture with Wilmington Trust Co., Wilmington, Del. Wilmington Trust had handled the marketing. That relationship, called Edinburgh Wilmington International Capital Management, lasted nine years until the two organizations dissolved the joint venture in the fall of 1993.
EFM then established its own operations in the North America. That venture helped give EFM confidence and strength to market to U.S. clients on its own. For whatever reason, the firm never clicked with North American institutional investors.
Regardless, Mr. Watt, now that he has had to move on, can take assurance the pizza will still be available in Chicago in the new year. Whether Saddam Hussein will continue to be in control of Iraq for long in 2003, well, one wonders what Mr. Watt thinks this time.
As the Scots might say, cheers to the good old times.