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25 October 2017

A Neophyte's LME Dinner



This article was written by David Gaddes. All views and opinions are strictly his own.

The LME Dinner week is fast approaching and as I recently began populating my diary I thought about the event and the times I have attended. Oh my, how it has changed. I have many stories, many not fit for print, but I thought it would be fun to share with you the night of my first LME Dinner. 

That would have been 1971 or thereabouts. If it was ’71, I was 18 years old with no real exposure to the event at all. I was employed by a company called Entores Limited, an international metal merchant and LME Ring Dealing member. I had left the accounts department and become a shipping clerk. I had noticed in the previous 2 years that there was a week every October when the office was full of visitors and it was because of the LME Dinner, but I was too junior fully to understand the importance of it. I never expected then one day to be invited to it, and certainly not that year.

It was late morning on the day of that dinner and I think I was struggling to negotiate a Moscow Narodny Bank letter of credit for a sizeable shipment of pig lead, all of it ex LME warehouses lifted from the clearing with the warrants cancelled the previous week. I was certainly struggling with something as I was in the middle of my shipping apprenticeship. The vessel declared by the Russian buyer was late. It always was. As I studied the bills of lading, I felt a tap on the shoulder and as I turned I saw my Commercial Director standing there. He had in his hand a bunch of pound notes which he held out for me to take. Puzzled I took them. 

“David. I think it’s high time you attended the LME Dinner so get yourself down to Moss Brothers lunchtime and get fitted out with a dinner suit. You are on my table so I’ll see you at our cocktail party around 6.30. Go see my secretary. She has all the details. You’re booked for one night at the Westbury Hotel. ”

Now I have to say that this was not the only time in our industry when I felt like a million dollars, but I think it was the first. I also felt very nervous. Kipling once wrote that triumph and disaster are both imposters. Experience has taught me he was damn right. Nonetheless I felt triumphant. My boss had also given me a very generous amount of “spending money” for taxis and entertaining. I stared at all the notes with the biggest grin you have ever seen. I got the documents checked with a covering letter and receipt to be signed by Moscow Narodny, gave them to the messenger, and went to get my dinner suit.

The dinner itself was a blur. Well, it would be given the number of gin and tonics I had consumed in our suite beforehand. I don’t remember much about it to be frank, just the chandeliers in the Great Room and the bets on the speeches. At the end of the dinner my boss tapped me on the shoulder once again. This time he had a piece of folded A4 paper. I did not know it when I was invited that morning but I was about to learn the real reason for my invitation. It was not because I was the best shipping clerk in the world and a young man destined for great things. Not at all. Hand written on the piece of paper were some numbers. Against each number was a list of expensive brands of alcohol. In the top right hand corner was the name and address of a night club. It was called the Eve Club. 

“Grab a taxi and get yourself down to the Eve Club now and make sure that each of those tables have the right bottles on them.”

It was only about 10.45 when I arrived at the Eve Club. It was empty apart from around 20 nearly naked ladies. Our guests would not arrive until they had attended the post dinner cocktail parties. When my boss arrived, I had double checked that each table had the right beverages and I was sat with about five of those beautiful ladies in a circular booth drinking champagne. Maybe Kipling was wrong. 

“Everything OK  David ?” shouted my boss as he walked past the table. 

“Everything is perfect boss,” I replied.

I mentioned earlier how the LME Dinner has changed. It has and it had to. However every time I have attended since I fleetingly remember that first night. The spirit of that evening remains with me and I am not talking about the alcohol.



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