Friday, 30 October 2009

Meltdown does the opposite

You'll recall my fixation with Meltdown - the pisspoor financial novel penned by Martin Horlick (ne Baker).
In August I reported that publisher Macmillan had axed plans for a sequel, despite originally signing the author - hubbie of Madoff victim Nicola Horlick - on a three book deal.
Bad news for the embattled Horlicks, for sure, but it seems that the concept (if not Martin's literary career) has legs. Another City thriller called Meltdown is now due out next month.
"For amiable City trader Jimmy Corby money was the new Rock n' Roll. His whole life was a party, adrenalin charged and cocaine fuelled," the PR puff relays. "If he hadn't met Monica he would probably have ended up either dead or in rehab. But Jimmy was as lucky in love as he was at betting on dodgy derivatives, so instead of burning out, his star just burned brighter than ever."
My guess is that Meltdown II might sell slightly better than the first draft, as it's been penned by the self-proclaimed comedy genius, Ben Elton. Still sounds like a load of tosh, though.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Executive affairs going on as Standard

The Evening Standard's City Spy column seems to have a fetish for publishing rumours about the extra-martial affairs of top execs - only the paper's too coy to name names.
The column kicked off its series last week with a story that subsequently turned out to be a reference to insurance boss Andrew Moss and the incestuous goings on at Aviva (who'd have thought it, at a company with strong links to Norwich?)
The paper then followed that up with another tale of some high flying exec banging a former employee - and today has three stories (count 'em!) in the "wicked whisper" format on more corporate canoodling.
This is looking like a trend, and I'm going to experiment with this format myself. So, here goes: which top FTSE-100 chief exec isn't shagging his PA?

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

ICAP walks the protection plank

The latest act of piracy on the high seas reminds me that there is almost always a few quid to be made out of even the most depressing situation.
The renaissance of the pirate has enabled interdealer broker, ICAP, to build up a steady trade in the protection business, by supplying freight ships with commandos (some might call them mercenaries).
Treble (rums) all round!

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Stuart changes Lanes in move away from IG

What is going on at Extrabet - the sports betting arm of spread betting giant IG Group?
Stuart Lane, the respected Extrabet boss, has left the building, which observers are viewing as a possible precursor to the FTSE 250 company offloading its sports division.
Such a deal has long been rumoured, as IG generates the vast majority of its revenue and profit from clients trading financial markets via its IG Index platform, while sports clients are rarely converted into more profitable financial clients - despite the industry's best efforts.

Our survey said...

With the fall-out over the affair between Aviva boss Andrew Moss and his HR lady, Deirdre Galvin, a thought occurs.
Might it be time for Aviva to reinstate its high profile Cost of Divorce survey?

Monday, 26 October 2009

By George! Soros plays both sides

I see that billionaire investor, George Soros, has told the Financial Times that the big profits made by some Wall Street banks are "hidden gifts" from the state, and taxpayer resentment of such companies is "justified".
It's a fair enough point - although he might not be quite the man to make it.
"When I sold sterling short in 1992, the Bank of England was on the other side of my transactions, and I was in effect taking money out of the pockets of British taxpayers," he once gloated. "But if I had tried to take social consequences into account, it would have thrown off my risk-reward calculation, and my profits would have been reduced."
So that's all right then!

Friday, 23 October 2009

Little Miss Moffat frightened away

Changing your name allows you to be who you always wanted to be, ran the Aviva telly ads of earlier this year - which suggested the company everyone happily called Norwich Union actually wanted to be a rock star, a model or an actor.
A similar re-branding might now be the best option for the group's disgraced chief exec Andrew Moss, assuming he wants to escape the embarrassment of his affair with an underling, Deirdre Galvin.
Ms Galvin, of course, has already changed her own name, having previously gone under the moniker of Deirdre Moffat. Presumably, she's now become what she always dreamed of.

Not seeing the Sherwood for the fees

Michael "Woody" Sherwood - vice-chairman of Goldman Sachs group and co-chief exec, Goldman Sachs International - attempts to justify his bank's actions during the financial crisis in an article in The Times today.
“What is common to the investment banks, commercial banks, mortgage banks and insurance companies that failed in the past year is poor management practice,” he muses.
True, but the implication of Woody's line is that those banks that did not fail were somehow spared by good management. Nothing to do with government bail outs, then.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Gilchrist smokes out FTSE execs with a Kamal

I hear that Susan Gilchrist, senior partner at City PR outfit Brunswick, is writing to FTSE-100 execs inviting them to dinner at her Eaton Square pad. The carrot? The Sunday Telegraph's new Business Editor, Kamal "tell me what to write" Ahmed, will be there. Hurry, hurry!

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Fancy that...

"A windfall tax on bankers would be lesser of two evils" - Daily Telegraph, B4, October 20, 2009.

"Nothing would be more futile than unilaterally to impose a windfall profits tax on bankers" - Daily Telegraph, B5, October 20, 2009.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Betfair backs vampire squid in flotation stakes

The flotation of online betting exchange, Betfair, is a saga that has run and run. But is it now under starter's orders?
I'm told that the great vampire squid, Goldman Sachs, has been appointed to handle the £1.5bn listing...

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Good news and bad

As Czech president, Vaclav Klaus, is cheered by UK Eurosceptics over the fuss he's causing around the EU Treaty, the following gag is doing the rounds in Prague.
US president, Barack Obama, and Russian PM, Vladimir Putin, join Klaus in an audience with God.
The Almighty tells them that the world will end in 48 hours - so the leaders return home to report back to their people.
Putin informs Russians that he has good news and bad. The bad news is that there is a God, but the good news is that He is having a dialogue with Russia.
Obama also reports good news and bad: the good is that there is a God. The bad - that the world will end in two days.
Klaus, on the other hand, only sees two pieces of good news when he addresses Czech voters. Firstly, that there is a God. And secondly, that there will be no EU Treaty.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

O'Leary's panoramic view pays dividends

Is the hilarious spat between the BBC's Panorama and Ryanair - over the "hatchet job" engineered by the state broadcaster - a case of the O'Leary doth (deliberately) protest too much?
The cheapo airline has published the interminable correspondence between the warring pair but, as it all makes inconclusive reading, it only serves to fuel the theory that chief exec Michael O'Leary is enjoying keeping this row simmering.
It's a tactic that's paid off before for the Gigginstown Gab - memorably in 2002 when (rather than settling) Ryanair allowed its millionth passenger, Jane O’Keeffe, to take the airline to court for reneging on its offer to gift her free flights for life. That episode ended with the judge finding O'Leary had been “hostile and aggressive” to O’Keeffe, as she trousered €67,500 in compensation.
Bad news for O'Leary? Not a bit of it. “For three days we got the worst publicity any company has ever had in its life,” O'Leary recalled. “Our bookings soared by 30% day by day by day. The more we were in court the bigger the bookings were.”

Monday, 12 October 2009

Expenses spared

I wonder where this campaign to return parliamentary expenses will end? Will it stretch to MPs' staff - who are still allowed to let taxpayers fund their travel to and from work?

Friday, 9 October 2009

A reader writes

Exciting times at the Sunday Telegraph, where new business editor Kamal Ahmed has just arrived.
Ahmed, who isn't a business journalist, is seeking to make up for a lack of experience by asking readers to do his column for him.
He writes last week: "I am going to try to share my column with readers before it appears and reflect on what you tell me before coming to any conclusions."
Readers are invited to join Ahmed on his Twitter feed - ahmedk123 - to read what he is (or rather his readers are) thinking of writing - an approach that has prompted the unthinkable.
In response there is now a SlackBelly Twitter page too! - which will be used solely for the purpose of gently heckling Kamal.

Thursday, 8 October 2009


Hedge fund manager Michael Hintze in front row of Tory conference. Next stop, the Lords?

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Flak watch...

I hear that George Trefgarne - erstwhile Sunday Telegraph City editor and the former speech writer to former BP boss, Lord Browne - is making a comeback.
Next month he'll join PR group, Maitland, whose client list includes sportswear retailer JJB, which should be an interesting one.
As a hack, Treffers once described the group as the "outfitter of choice for couch-potatoes and others who like wearing cheap sportsgear for an athletic afternoon in the shopping mall" - before implying a rival specialised in selling its stock to drug dealers.
Will he get the JJB account, I wonder?

Update 12/10/09: Tregarne's new job has now been confirmed.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Missing pink 'un at the Pink'un

We may be living in financial times, but at the Financial Times staffers are concentrating on more mundane matters.
Yesterday evening, every member of the esteemed organ received a missive entitled "supper" from one sub-editor. It read: "Thanks to whoever took my smoked salmon sandwich from the fridge at the back of the first floor. It was the only food I was likely to have today and, at 22.36, my chances of eating now are as slim as my waist will be tomorrow morning."

Monday, 5 October 2009

Bookmakers expecting another game of two halves

I read that bookmakers are facing the prospect of profit warnings because of heavy losses on the football over recent weeks. Possibly, but I'm a layer of that.
The old "struggling bookmaker" line is (of course) one of the oldest tricks in the turf accountant text book - as punters are encouraged to bet more having fallen for the idea that somebody else is the mug for a change. Not for long.
This PR puff story tends to surface each year, and only the details vary. One of the more imaginative efforts came in 2005, when William Hill blamed the Racing Post's chief tipster Tom Segal for its woeful first half.
Did punters' luck hold out? Of course not. When Hills eventually reported its full year numbers, both turnover and profit had experienced healthy hikes. What price on the same happening again?

Friday, 2 October 2009

Oil and Vinegar mix it in PR world

Reading the Mr Oil and Mr Vinegar restaurant review in FT Alphaville’s members-only Long Room site, a review of Le Caprice catches my eye – in particular, the following passage:

MrO: I’ve always loved it here, since my first visit in 1985 with a very pretty woman who flirted most outrageously with me.

MrV: Did you get anywhere with her?

MrO: No, she was a PR woman and I was a journalist so she was being paid to flirt. I phoned her a couple of weeks later to ask for a date and she didn’t remember who I was.

MrV: That’s PR people for you. Ghastly collection.

Messrs Oil and Vinegar should know. In their real lives the authors are those esteemed City PR people, Piers Pottinger and Damien McCrystal.