Name: Gary Pryke
Position: Director and head of corporate and finance, Drew & Napier
What was your first-ever job?
Furniture mover. Or rather mover of just about anything when I worked for a small contractor most of whose jobs came from government departments. It gave us an interesting fly-on-the-wall view of how government departments work (or don’t work) as we moved things around in them.
Where did you study?
King Edward VII High School, Johannesburg, 1968 to 1973
University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 1975 to 1978
University of South Africa, 1979 to 1982
Reading University, 1979 to 1982
College of Law, Guildford, 1983
I did my BA at Wits and started my LLB there (the LLB in South Africa is, or at least was then, post-grad) but then decided to study in the UK at Reading University. I continued the South African LLB through correspondence with UNISA which is why the Reading and UNISA dates are concurrent.
Where did you train?
I did articles (traineeship) in the UK and then had to do pupillage again in Singapore to qualify here although the period of pupillage was abridged slightly.
Have you lived or worked outside your home jurisdiction? What did you learn from it?
I have lived in South Africa, the UK and Singapore so what was home has been different at different times. But one notable experience was when as a young lawyer with Drew I had the opportunity to do a stint of a few months with a magic circle firm in London. Of course there was much to learn from a much larger international firm that was at the cutting edge in many areas. But as well as learning things that were done differently it was also instructive and confidence building to see how many things were the same – the same issues and challenges which had to be tackled in much the same way as we tackled them in Singapore.
When did you become partner?
In 1993 (as a full partner).
What deal/case in your career stands out the most and why?
One of the first, and one of the few, hostile takeovers in Singapore. Hostile takeovers were then even more rare in Singapore than they are now. Our client, the target, faced a hostile bidder much bigger than itself. We worked with an investment bank which although it later became very large and well-known, was then small and had only a handful of people in Singapore. So the team was small and had to come up with creative ideas with little or no precedent. This made it challenging but all the more satisfying when we succeeded in fending off the hostile bid.
What have been your recent deals?
At the moment we are acting for the offeror in the Overseas Union Enterprise led bid for Fraser & Neave. This is one of the largest bids in Singapore and probably in South East Asia in recent years. It is a competitive bid made in competition with the bid by TCC Assets Limited.
What is the biggest challenge facing your market at the moment?
There are a number of challenges stemming from a number of sources. The Singapore market is not isolated from the world-wide slow-down in business activity. At the same time there have been a number of large mergers between international law firms and local firms in many jurisdictions. Singapore has continued the opening of the legal market to foreign firms. The announcement of the second round of QLFP licences is expected shortly. Singapore firms will need to be agile and alert to navigate these sea changes.
What has been the most significant development in your sector in recent years?
One has been the trend towards doing things in a similar way both within jurisdictions and across jurisdictions. This can have the effect of accumulating complexity in a snowball fashion but generally it has led to greater efficiency and clearer focus on the important issues. For example the use of market standard documentation, such as LMA forms, as a starting point.
If you hadn’t been a lawyer, what would you have been?
When I left school I had three careers in mind, and in this order:
I concluded that the first was impractical (probably wrongly as my close friend did become a diver and then a yacht captain and has done very well for himself) and my father persuaded me against the second.
Which country do you travel to most frequently and which country do you like the best?
Other than in South East Asia, I travel mainly to South Africa and the UK. London is my favourite city.
What is your favourite book?
That is a difficult question because I read a lot and eclectically. One of my favourite authors is George Eliot and my favourite of her books is Romola.
What is your favourite restaurant?
Another difficult question and a dangerous one. As in reading, my tastes are eclectic but I enjoy Italian food and one of my favourite Italian restaurants in Singapore is Gattopardo.