Price Waterhouse provisional liquidator David Hague faced an unenviable task selling an investment bank that, by the time of its collapse, was practically at war with itself. Fear, greed and self-interest characterised negotiations to buy what had once been Hong Kong's premier equity operator. Criticism has centred on Mr Hague's failure to appoint an independent investment bank to broker the sale of the viable equity operation. With Peregrine managing director Francis Leung Pak-to and other senior executives having one eye on their own futures, how could they be expected to negotiate in creditors' interests? To listen to Mr Leung at the launch of BNP Prime Peregrine yesterday, the collapse of the firm he co-managed for 23 years was almost an afterthought compared to his new venture. Employees at the rump of Peregrine's equity business must have felt they had been sold down the river. Mr Hague faced two bitterly divided camps. The largely locally staffed Hong Kong-China division - a loose construct within Peregrine Brokerage and Peregrine Capital - had a solid offer from Banque National de Paris (BNP) and the enticement of an equity stake. BNP was a familiar name and senior managers saw little benefit from dragging along the international operation. International managers alleged a narrow parochialism among local executives for ruling out Banco Santander, yet without the powerhouse Hong Kong-China team their pitch was greatly diminished. Whether a third party adviser could have more effectively brokered a compromise is unclear. Certainly, an investment bank would have been better positioned to isolate risks, ring-fence derivative liabilities and pitch the business to potential buyers. Ultimately, any deal depended on the commitment of senior executives to the venture. With the Hong Kong-China team ploughing its own furrow, it is hard to blame Mr Hague for the failure to secure a deal for the whole business. Instead, attention should focus on Mr Leung. As the rain-maker for Peregrine's mainland underwriting business, he made possible much of the broking and trading business for his restless executives. Having committed to maximise the interests of Peregrine's employees, most assumed he would use this sway to smooth the tensions of a divided office. The disclaimer that he could not force a decision on other executives is not entirely convincing. Had Mr Leung called the Hong Kong-China team's bluff and pushed ahead with a sale of the whole firm, would they really have left? In today's difficult market, simply buying another team of traders with good broking connections would not have been that difficult. In short, did Mr Leung undersell his own worth when faced with a recalcitrant group of senior cohorts he was most close to within the firm? The other conclusion is that he never fancied a deal for the entire Peregrine equity business to begin with. The impression is left of a rather unsavoury transaction, where narrow self-interest dominated any camaraderie that bound the firm together. Of course, none of this is of any interest to creditors and shareholders, who rightly demand the best price be obtained for the wreckage of Peregrine. Price Waterhouse is not a big name in Hong Kong liquidation proceedings and its choice surprised many in the profession. Peregrine directors appointed the firm and - interestingly - with no convincing explanation offered, the sale terms of the BNP transaction were not revealed. It must be assumed an agreement to keep the sale price confidential was made by the presiding judge at the Companies Court. Tomorrow's proceedings to approve the deal will be held in chambers, and shareholders have every right to demand the figure be publicly revealed. Anything less smacks of a rather desperate attempt to mask the return shareholders and creditors could have made had that 'Peregrine spirit' truly been kept alive and the best offer on the table been taken.