Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Breaking media news...

I hear that Independent City editor Jeremy Warner is off to the Telegraph to write three columns a week...

Jacqui Smith's accidental promotion

The furore over Mr Jacqui Smith (aka Richard Timney) sticking the fees for viewing a couple of adult films through his wife's expenses looks like a magnificent marketing coup for the Home (Entertainment) Secretary's digital television provider, Virgin Media.
Am I the only one surprised to learn that watching this stuff costs as little as a fiver?

Monday, 30 March 2009

Fancy that...

FT, 15 Feb 2009:
King’s faded realm
By Chris Giles
"Mr King’s beloved inflation targeting and the Bank’s sole command of monetary policy appear as much part of the bubble – now burst – as bankers’ bonuses."

FT, Mar 27, 2009:
King back in his castle
By Chris Giles
"Mr King’s authority in the British economic debate has never been higher than it has been this week."

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Blackstone finds the best things in life are free

The Financial Times is suing private equity giant Blackstone, claiming the US investment group shared one FT.com account login to avoid paying for multiple users.
Lawyers are predictably poring over lists of stories that Blackstone employees read, and I learn from one of my learned friends that over half the tales were from Alphaville - the pink 'un's award-winning financial blog, access to which is, er, free.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Summers you win

Here's the New York Times from November 5 1999 reporting the ditching of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, a move widely blamed for allowing Wall Street banks to become so bloated that when they went down they took us all with them.
"Congress approved landmark legislation today that opens the door for a new era on Wall Street, in which commerical banks, securities houses and insurers will find it easier and cheaper to enter one another's businesses," ran the lead paragraph, while then Treasury Secretary Lawrence H Summers offered: "This historic legislation will be better enable American companies to compete in the new economy."
Obviously, what with G-S being such a disaster, Summers has since disappeared from public life and no longer occupies any positions of influence or power. Well, sort of.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Fashion news...

My tailor tells me that he cannot shift any pinstripe suits. Why? Nobody wants to give the impression that they might be a banker.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Collins moves on...

A few follows on my exclusive story from Friday, it seems, with news that Neil Collins - the legendary former Daily Telegraph City editor and Evening Standard columnist - has got a new job.
Good luck to the "terrifying" old boy, I say.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Collins reaches out for new opportunity

What now for Neil Collins? I hear that the very godfather of modern financial journalism is leaving the Evening Standard, the victim, perhaps, of a recent Russian coup.
After twenty years duffing up chief executives as City editor of the Daily Telegraph, and a few more writing a punchy column at the Evening Standard, Collins knew to expect a few hits back.
He is, as they say, available for hire. Might fresh opportunities present themselves in some of Collins's pet areas - such as our economy's only growth sector?

Thursday, 19 March 2009

University provides none of the answers

Last year, Bradford University scored a significant triumph by awarding an honorary doctorate to former HBOS chief exec Sir James Crosby for his services to (wait for it) financial services.
Sir James's role in the credit crisis came early (but was undoubtedly significant) as it was he who developed HBOS's increasingly aggressive strategy - before ignoring the numerous warnings of his head of risk, Paul Moore, and then whacking the whistleblower.
So, I wonder, now this has all been aired in front of the Treasury Select Committee and Sir James has resigned as deputy chairman of the FSA, has anybody at Bradford considered asking for that ridiculous gong back?
My enquiries along this line fail to gain a response in February and it is only when I send another email asking if I'm being ignored that I finally get an answer (of sorts).
One Adrian Pearce in the Bradford press office sniffs: "I note the content of your recent email to the University. It is not University policy to discuss the status of any of our graduates, including honorary graduates."
Which seems slightly disingenuous. Bradford University was more than happy to discuss the status of Sir James, when pushing out a press release on his award back in November.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

A less than taxing campaign at the Guardian

I see that the Guardian's Tax Gap campaign continues - this time with a tale of how Barclays Bank has obtained a court order banning the paper from publishing documents showing how the bank set up companies to avoid hundreds of millions of pounds in tax.
No doubt this is a worthy crusade - and one in which Guardian journalists should be able to draw on large resources of in-house tax expertise to assist them with their scoops.
It is almost a year to the day that, buried on page 25, the newspaper published a small notice which read: "Guardian Media Group plc, parent company of the Guardian, in partnership with Apax Partners, has incorporated a new company registered in the Cayman Islands as part of its proposed acquisition of Emap plc."
"The tax arrangements of Apax Partners and GMG for the acquisition of Emap plc are completely legitimate, and are based on accepted practice and the recommendation of our advisers. This is not about GMG avoiding tax - indeed we have paid an average of 34pc tax over the last five years."
Naturally, the structure which was "not about GMG avoiding tax" ended with the media group admitting that it would pay, er, less duty.
Irony, some call it.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Booze memory loss for Cameron

Conservative leader, David Cameron, came out yesterday opposing a proposal by Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, to increase taxes on all forms of booze. “It seems to me that what we should do is what we suggested before the last Budget," Cameron opined, "which is to try to target the problem drinkers and the problem drinks."
He should know. Before Cameron became Tory leader he was a non-exec at bar operator Urbium. Its most famous (and potent) brew? Some cocktail (served in large jugs) which went under the name of the Pink Pussy.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Stewart vs Cramer - Part Deux

More on Jon Stewart's scrap with Mad Money host Jim Cramer. Marvellous stuff.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Will Will give up twittering for career in newspapers?

Has Daily Telegraph editor "Thirsty" Will Lewis given up on Twitter?
That's the latest internet fad where the under-employed reveal pointless facts about themselves over the worldwide interweb, but Will has barely been twittering at all this month, perhaps chosing to focus on - what is it again? - oh yes, a newspaper with 800,000 paying readers.
The last offerings from late February are that he was "on the way back from Paris" and "on the train to Lincoln" - while this month's sole entry reads: "Talking about twitter at a lunch party and showing people how it works".
This is fascinating stuff, and a vital contribution to the exciting new multi-media world, but lacks the sparkle of his earlier efforts.
My favourite: "Making porridge for the children".
Seriously, he's an inspiration.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Credit-crunched Myerson says decree was not absolute

I see that Ingrid Myerson - the former wife of Brian, the founder of fund manager Principle Capital - took £9.5m in cash from their divorce settlement last year, while her ex husband took PC paper. The shares have since slumped by 90% and Brian is trying to claw some of his cash back.
Three thoughts occur:
1. In a rare lucid moment, I did warn that the financial crisis would provoke City-types to start retrospectively renegotiating divorce deals (but not bonus payments).
2. Would Brian Myerson have increased his missus's pay-out had the shares gone up?
3. Why doesn't embattled Principle give Mrs Myerson a job?

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Greenburgh shoots to the top of worst banker poll

Just who is the charmless banker under attack in the Evening Standard?
While I can't be sure - and several candidates suggest themselves - the clever money is on Matthew Greenburgh at Merrill Lynch.
Greenburgh himself is the opposite of clever money, having advised Sir Fred on ABN Amro and Eric Daniels on HBOS.
That makes him a candidate for my worst investment banker in the world gong. He is, in effect, a tax on the rest of us.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

In Cramer we trust

I see that US chatshow host Jon Stewart is giving Jim Cramer, the blaring presenter of CNBC's Mad Money, a real going over. Surely an over-reaction! Before the collapse of Bear Stearns, Cramer merely recommended that his viewers keep their money with the stricken bank (and buy its shares). Recommended repeatedly, that is.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Scapegoat Millionaire

Friends of Sir Fred Goodwin - convinced that the focus on his pension is a government ruse to deflect attention from the Prime Minister's own failings - are amused to note that the story has now moved on to RBS's sports sponsorship deals.
If Sir Fred wasn't Chubby Brown's preferred scapegoat, they argue, then the government's support for the probe would naturally extend to sports deals signed by another nationalised bank, Northern Rock. I wouldn't hold your breath, lads.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Ton-up at The Times

Much embarrassment at the Times, which seems to have bungled its new redundancy programme.
I hear that management assumed that they could get away with whacking some production staff along with a load of casuals - carelessly forgetting that, under employment law, dispatching a casual counts just the same as sacking a full-time member of staff.
So all the whacked casuals nudged the number of lay-offs just above the magic 100 mark – the level which means that the paper now has to go through a lengthy consultation process. D’oh!

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Point of order, Mr Speaker

The dreadful Harriet Harperson was deputising for Gordon Brown at PMQs today, putting in a woeful performance which must have finally scuppered her (optimistic) leadership hopes.
She also told the House an untruth, when dodging a question about who proposed a knighthood for Sir Fred Goodwin (supposedly a specialist subject of hers).
"It was for services to the Prince's Trust," she mused, carelessly.
Not so. Sir Fred received his gong for services to banking. Oh, do keep up, Minister.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Sir Fred still Number One

Last April The Daily Telegraph ran a series on the 1,000 most powerful people in British business, an astonishing suck-up job by almost any standards.
The top 20 in banking, of course, now reads like a who's who of villainy, with number one (you've guessed it) Sir Fred Goodwin.
"Despite yesterday's record breaking £12 billion rights issue, Sir Fred remains the dominant influence in British banking," opined the Tel back then.
Still true, I suppose.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Wanted: heavy to stop the levy running dry

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport is advertising for a new chairman of the Horserace Betting Levy Board - the body that decides how much of the bookmakers' profits go to racing each year.
This is always a contentious issue (and relations between racing and the bookmaking industry are getting increasingly acrimonious) as the bookmakers always argue they should be paying less, while racing (obviously) presses for more.
For eight to ten days a month the successful candidate can earn £63k a year, which may not be enough to referee this ongoing scrap.
As the job ad says: "The new Chair [sic] will be an excellent negotiator and problem solver." You can say that again.