It didn't so much start with a kiss, but a juicy front page headline that put Norwich City Football Club, ?20 million for players and Britain's 40th most-minted individual in pretty close proximity.
It was about as close as the three ever got. Strung together in a single sentence one Monday morning.
Some 11 days later and Peter Cullum and his Towergate entourage are heading back over the horizon to their Maidstone HQ; the 'King Of Deals' having pulled out of the one deal that would have made him 'King of the Hill' in the city of his birth.
For most supporters, the sight of that ?1.7 billion fortune disappearing off down the A11 and in the vague direction of Bluewater will be a very, very bitter pill to swallow – the air will be thick with recrimination and accusation this morning as fingers point and questions are asked. Why did it never happen? Why was the 'deal junkie's deal junkie' never granted his football fix?
It will, inevitably, cast a long shadow over the start of the new season; this will be the bitter summer of 'What might-have-been…'
Picking you way through the mess is no easy task. The reality is these days that everyone is deemed to have an agenda of their own; whichever media outlet 'spins' the story, it will always be spun to their own design. The truth of the matter will never get out there will be the widespread claim.
Certain 'facts' are, however, certain. Just about.
One is written into the law of the land and has, from day one, been ignored at everyone's peril. Under City Code Rule Nine, you canot make an offer for 61.2% of the shareholding in a UK Plc without making an offer for the remaining 38.8% of the shares in circulation.
That's the point that Birmingham City owner David Sullivan was making in the bitter fall-out from Carson Yeung's abortive takeover attempt at St Andrews last season; that he was going to match the Hong Kong's millionaire's 29.9% stakeholding in the club with a view to making a full and outright purchase as and when he tipped over that 30% mark.
Which, as Barry Skipper suggested, could have been one way round the impasse – that if Cullum were prepared to settle for a Yeung-like 29.9% and still pump his ?20 million into Glenn Roeder's transfer kitty then there was a way of keeping everyone inside the tent. Brand Delia acting as the 'icon'; Cullum adding his financial muscle and obvious City (of London) acumen to the workings of what remains – for all that unrivalled level of loyal support – just another Championship club.
Somewhere within those kind of sums, perhaps, there was a deal to be had.
It did, of course, rest on the 'King Of Deals' forgoing his claim on a controlling interest in the club; that, however, appeared an immovable object. Even yesterday as Canary director Andrew Turner tried to broker a resolution out of Cullum's legal team, that stance was said to have remained unchanged.
It was ?20 million. And control. End of.
Literally, some hours later.
Fact number two is that for all the 100 plus takeover deals that Cullum and his Mergers & Acquisitions boys have pulled off over the last ten years, Britain's Entrepreneur of the Year will never have tried to take on an institution as emotionally-charged and – under Delia's watch – as morally upright as Norwich City Football Club.
Whether having joint majority shareholders with such a straight moral compass as Delia Smith and the son of the Rector of Harleston befits the vicious and brutal world of the English professional game in 2008 is a bigger question for another day.
The alternative, albeit at the other, bankrupt extreme, is to 'enjoy' the stewardship of, say, the Shepherd clan at St James'; employ Sam Allardyce as your manager; Joey Barton as a player; Willie Mackay as everyone's agent.
The fact that Cullum first re-appeared on the front page of the local newspaper following his first, '?5 million and control now, ?15 million in the summer…' approach last autumn smacked of less than good faith.
From day one of this tortuous fortnight, it hardly endeared him to the current Carrow Road board; being rail-roaded into a nasty and all-too public corner via some vague ?20 million promise and a front page headline was never going to be the basis for immediate and fruitful negotiation.
Hence trust was never in abundance in a man they always viewed as being little more than an absentee landlord; that their club would be run remotely by two or three Towergate 'suits' in much the same way that Marcus Evans' men run Ipswich Town.
The third fact is that, for all his worthy charitable efforts, you don't get to be Britain's 40th richest man by being a soft touch – or overly free with your money.
Cullum's people will have run the numbers on Norwich City. And whilst he might, on paper, have ?1.7 billion at his disposal, that only liquifies once some great private equity concern buys you out of Towergate. At that point, the 57-year-old could be back with a real vengence; right now with just the odd, ?60 million liquified out of the business this year perhaps he simply hadn't the stomach for the numbers that a buy-out of the Smiths' majority share-holding would require.
Particularly if, squeezed by the on-going credit crunch, AXA and people refused to play ball.
Having, of course, already pledged himself to that ?20 million for Roeder's benefit, the Towergate team had both shareholders and banks to satisfy.
For while ?50 million or so might be nothing to a man with ?1.7 billion sat in the bank, when you have 'only' got ?60 million in readies and the rest – albeit ?1.65 billion – locked up in your business, even for a man of Cullum's means the numbers he was being asked to crunch didn't add up. It was all getting a bit rich and a bit fruity for his liking. He'd poked a hornets' nest of expectation.
And for those who still don't 'get' what this whole City Code Rule Nine thing was about – and, indeed, the way that Towergate as a business have come to operate – this made for telling reading.
The 'Insurance Daily' website might not be thrilling read on a day-to-day basis, but this tale from last December following Cullum's successful chase of the AIM-listed Broker Network reveals that the Towergate M&A boys had been down the full, buy-out road before – as recently as last Christmas.
“Insurance group Towergate has today cemented its approach for intermediaries Broker Network, according to a report to the London Stock Exchange earlier on today, confirming the latest step in its aggressive expansion programme designed to increase overall revenues.
“Following an unconditional acceptance by a majority of the Broker Network shareholders over the course of yesterday afternoon, Towergate will now with certainty acquire Broker Network, buying up just under 93% of its ordinary share capital leading to the desired takeover.
“Under takeover law, Towergate will also now be required to make a compulsary offer for the remaining ordinary share capital at certain predetermined rates, which may or may not be accepted by the respective holders of those shares but must nonetheless be offered in the interests of fairness.
“Towergate has announced that it is now looking to remove Broker Network from the Alternative Investment Market, making it a private rather than publicly listed company with a view to decreasing the regulatory burden and minimising external influence on the way the firm is run.
“The move comes as yet another in a long line of takeovers by Towergate, which established a dedicated acquisitions team to source and complete acquisition deals on a perpetual basis to ensure ongoing growth…”
The key phrases? Well, everything that has happened of late suggests that their 'aggressive expansion programme' extended, briefly, to Championship football; that for 'a majority of the Broker Network shareholders' read Delia Smith and her husband, Michael Wynn Jones – only they never gave their 'unconditional acceptance'; and that 'under takeover law, Towergate will also now be required to make a compulsory offer for the remaining ordinary share capital at certain predetermined rates…' was City Code Rule Nine kicking in.
The fascinating phrase, however, comes in the penultimate paragraph – a phrase that didn't bode too well for the hopes that a Cullum-led board would suddenly be held accountable by a supporters representative.
Maybe, usual business practice would have softened when it came to his home city club. Maybe.
That in becoming a private rather than a publicly listed company – a Plc – Towergate were looking at 'decreasing the regulatory burden and minimising external influence on the way the firm is run…'
Minimising external influence. That, in every likelihood, is you. The supporters. That's the way that Mr Evans does his business down the road. With the minimum of external influence. That's how they all do their business.
All of which might suggest that City supporters have had a lucky escape missing out on that ?1.7 billion jackpot. It's only money…. who needs it?
The truth is, of course, it will never, ever be seen that way. Nor, this morning, will it feel that way. Canary fans will feel short-changed; hard done by; let down and financially alone. 'Where's your money gone?' will be the gleeful refrain from across the Waveney as Town supporters wait to see Marcus splash much of his.
And that's going to be a very, very difficult legacy to deal with.