David McCourt’s dining boltholes

David McCourt, the founder and CEO of Granahan McCourt Capital, breaks bread with Spike Lee in LA, eats spaghetti amatriciana in London and closes deals at the 21 Club in New York

David McCourt at 21 Club in New York
David McCourt at 21 Club in New York | Image: Weston Wells

When I was younger, I read that when Rupert Murdoch established Fox he moved to LA; when he bought the Post he moved to New York; when he launched Sky TV, to London. Whether that’s strictly true, I don’t know, but I remember thinking at the time, “What kind of man would move every time he got involved in a business?” Now I realise that is exactly what I have done over the past 30 years. At a push, I am based in Florida but have other residences around the world – and I grew up in Boston. Indeed, the lunch that changed my future was at Boston’s Union Oyster House where I set up a meeting with the city’s then-mayor Kevin White to strike a deal to build the first competitive phone company in the US (I remember I ate clam chowder). It’s a beautiful 18th-century building and our meals there with the mayor set the wheels in motion for three further major deals leading to our expansion into cable television across the US.

Often before a meeting I will arrange to have breakfast with a colleague first to discuss strategy. In New York, I take guests to The Mark Hotel near the office, for scrambled egg whites with spinach and tomatoes; or, if I’m feeling posh, avocado and eggs on toast – my father was in construction and I guess I am from a lower-middle-class family. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve got a little more posh. When I am in Los Angeles, I always meet Jeffrey Katzenberg at the Four Seasons, either at 7am or 8am. If it’s at eight, I’ll know he already had a breakfast meeting an hour before, so we’ll eat fruit to keep our meeting quick. I produced a show with Spike Lee, and ate thin-crust pizza with him there. That night ran late – long and fun.

At Michael’s I once had a very memorable lunch with Bernie Ebbers, the former CEO of WorldCom. The deal was worth $14.5bn and I had chicken paillard and arugula salad and we pushed the boat out that day and had sparkling water. I normally drink New York tap water; I prefer it to any bottled water. As for alcohol at lunchtime, no way. This deal went fine, then Bernie Ebbers was arrested and is now serving a 25-year prison sentence for fraud and conspiracy. When I found out you could have knocked me down with a feather. I had no idea.

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I’ve celebrated a lot of deals over dinner at the 21 Club in New York. When I did a deal for around $1.65bn with the late Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft, he suggested we go there for a burger. Although I’m not a great one for burgers, we had just done a deal so I said, ‘Yes, sure. I’ll have a burger with you.’ I usually have the Dover sole but you eat what your guest likes – even if it had been the table itself, I would have eaten it.

If I am working in Washington, DC, I like to go to 1789, which is in a converted Federal townhouse. Bill Clinton eats there and it brings back nice memories as it’s so close to Georgetown University where I studied – but I couldn’t afford 1789 back then. I always get the swordfish in the summer and the turbot or sole in the winter. Out-of-town people always want to come to be introduced to Clinton, the last of our non-polarising presidents – good old Bill.

In London, I eat at table 36 at Zafferano – which is in the corner of the bar, away from the main restaurant. The chef makes spaghetti amatriciana as it should be made – with cheek of the pig. I go there for a business-like soup and a salad, Sunday night comfort food or a celebration. There are very few restaurants you can go to for all three.

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