Friday, 30 January 2009

A few Lords a leaping

A few Lords are a tad concerned as the weekend approaches, I hear. Apparently the Sunday Times has a few more recordings - that weren't released last week.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Ivana and Marla get trumped

More on Donald Trump's attempts to bed Mrs John Travolta, Kelly Preston.
As the property tycoon's touching tribute to Preston's dead son, Jett, explains: "A long time ago, before I was married, I met Kelly Preston at a club and worked like hell to try and pick her up."
For some reason Preston preferred the affections of her husband, causing the Donald to gush: "Being true to someone is very close to being true to yourself. That’s a valuable attribute in today’s world."
Trump should know. His first marriage to Ivana ended in 1991, after rumors began to circulate that he was having an affair with a former beauty queen from Georgia, Marla Maples. While the Trump family was on holiday in Aspen, Ivana confronted Maples on the ski slopes, Ivana and Donald divorced and Maples went on to become the second Mrs Trump.
That marriage didn't last either, and DT is now on his third wife, Melania.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

In the blue corner ... Martin Waller

Another day, and another SlackBelly yarn is followed up by The Times. This time it is the paper's City Diary which loved yesterday's Donald Trump tale so much, that it simply claimed it for itself.
However, I can only believe that this episiode was an aberration by veteran Times Diarist, Martin Waller - a man known for his sarcastic emails to juniors on rival columns whenever they follow one of his stories.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

FT's Thal Larsen saved from suffocation

Emergency surgery is underway at the FT, where doctors are battling to remove heads from backsides before suffocation ensues.
Today's FT Guide to Davos has seven of the paper's top bods talking amongst themselves over six pages about what might happen at Davos. With pictures.
There are three alone of banking editor Peter Thal Larsen -- looking thoughtful, pensive and thoughtfully pensive as necessary.
A flavour of the discussion?
"You make a very good point. We shall have to see how that one plays out. The economic picture will be dark. Returning to your question...."
Nurse! The screens!

Update: this FT Davos section is sponsored by Vestas. That's wind power. Ba-da-boom....tsch.

Donald's message trumps all others

How does Donald Trump pay his respects when a teenager dies? By telling the world a tale about how he once tried to bang the dead boy's mother, of course!
Here's the improbably coiffeured property tycoon, writing on his blog about the death of John Travolta's and Kelly Preston's son, Jett.
"I have always respected people who were loyal and faithful--which brings to mind Kelly Preston. A long time ago, before I was married, I met Kelly Preston at a club and worked like hell to try and pick her up. She was beautiful, personable, and definitely had allure. At the time I had no idea she was married to John Travolta."
"In any event, my track record on this subject has always been outstanding, but Kelly wouldn’t give me the time of day. She was very nice, very elegant, but I didn’t have a chance with her, and that was that."
"When I later found out she was married to John, I liked and respected her even more. Some people have values that matter to them, and she is one of them. Her loyalty was unwavering and I have always remembered that about her."
"Being true to someone is very close to being true to yourself. That’s a valuable attribute in today’s world. I’m sure she was a wonderful mother to Jett and my thoughts are with her and her family after their terrible loss."
A touching tribute.

Monday, 26 January 2009

No non-exec tap-up for Tappin

More on jumped-up headhunter Steve Tappin, who you'll recall has just engineered his first executive switch of the year by leaving his own job as managing partner of Heidrick & Struggles's CEO and Board practice.
So what should we expect from Steve next, I wonder?
In his book, Secrets of CEOs (which was mainly penned by veteran City hack, Andrew Cave) Tappin opines: "Retiring as a CEO need no longer signal the end of your career ... In the past decade, most CEOs have tended to move into a plural career of non-executive positions as a way of continuing in business and sharing the benefit of their experience and wisdom. However, off the record many ex-CEOs, while enjoying having more free time, find non-executive roles unrewarding from a business point of view (not least because most consider non-executive boards to be too heavily focused on corporate governance and not suffiently value adding or commercial)".
We can rule out any new non-exec roles for Tappin, then.

Friday, 23 January 2009

Fancy that...

No mention in the Daily Mail this morning that Viscount Rothermere, chairman of Daily Mail and General Trust, has joined the likes of Michael Spencer at ICAP, Tim Martin at JD Wetherspoon and Brian Souter at Stagecoach, in pledging shares as security for a loan.
So we best go back to Ben Laurence's Mail column of January 10, to find out what the newspaper really thinks about this practice.
Then Laurence wrote: "The upshot is that directors who have used shares as collateral to obtain a loan without disclosing the fact will escape any penalty whatsoever. Frankly, this looks like a shambles. Too often, the regulatory regime covering the City and financial services looks rickety. The fact that people who have patently broken the directors' code and violated the spirit of the disclosure requirements are now going to escape censure or punishment is lamentable."
Oh well.

A question...

As more and more directors reveal they have pledged shares to secure loans, I wonder how many City spinners will slip out announcements on behalf of their bosses at around 4pm today - just as the deadline approaches (for the statements and the weekend newspapers)?

Update (18.08): those late filers include Sir Martin Sorrell at WPP (15.51), Arthur Ryan at Royal Bank of Scotland (16.30) and Carnival's Micky Arison (17.48). Other stragglers include DCC, Pochin's, McInerey Holdings, N Brown, HR Owen, United Drug and Intec Telecom Systems - to name but a few.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Breaking news...

A big Lynching at Merrills is rumoured to be under way in London, following cuts earlier today in Asia. You heard it here first, or possibly second (if you've just been lunching in the Square Mile).

Update: And you heard it from The Times (23/01/09) third.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Racing Post hits another hurdle

What is happening at the Racing Post, the turf bible that was bought from Trinity Mirror by Irish private equity group FL Partners for £170m in 2007?
Around £120m is thought to be debt, with the remainder equity, but as the paper's circulation (and value) supposedly takes a tumble there are constant rumours in the industry that banking covenants may be about to be strained (denied by FL).
That fence might be easily negotiable if, for example, one's bank is riding the financial crisis well itself. So which lender provided the debt financing for FL's Racing Post deal? Step forward Anglo Irish (which was nationalised last week).

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Evershed ever-ready to construct a new case

Is Patrick Evershed, the famous 67-year-old fund manager who left New Star Asset Management suddenly late last year, addicted to employment tribunals?
News that he is claiming constructive dismissal against his former firm reminds those in the City with long(ish) memories that he has been here before.
Seven years ago, following his shock departure from Rathbones, he told Citywire: "I certainly didn’t want to leave. I wanted to stay, but I just felt I couldn’t stand it any more. I’ve declared myself to be constructively dismissed. I’m terribly upset and mortified."
He then elaborated: "I’ve been making frequent complaints for three years."
How very prescient!

Monday, 19 January 2009

Ta ta to Tappin

Steve Tappin, who you'll recall is the jumped-up headhunter and co-author of the Secrets of CEOs, has engineered his first executive switch of the year - by leaving his own job as head of the CEO & Board Practice at recruitment group Heidrick & Struggles.
The Nasdaq-listed firm felt compelled to issue a press release on this staggering news on Friday, although it cleverly fails to clarify exactly whose idea the move was.
Tappin explains:"Heidrick & Struggles and I have reluctantly agreed that I should [pursue other interests] outside the firm"; while, David Peters, H&S's European managing partner, smoothes: "We are reluctant to see him leave".
There is still space, however, for the pseud Tappin to thank his former employer for bankrolling the book (the writing of which he describes as a "profound experience" - even though most City watchers believe the best bits were penned by veteran financial hack, Andrew Cave), before revealing that he's off to pursue work around his "personal specialisation".
That's a new career talking about himself, then.

Friday, 16 January 2009

An Audience with Bernie Madoff (Part Two)

Welcome back to my new series - An Audience with Bernie Madoff. Next up, bullet-proof Bernie explains how human beings are prone legging each other over, and how he hasn't quite yet managed to programme a computer to circumvent Wall Street regulations.
Oh Bernie. Too modest!

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Murdoch's new slimming plan?

Is there a New Year slimline regime about to be instituted at the Murdoch media empire?
James Murdoch, boss of News Corp, has been addressing the troops at Fortress Wapping this week when one brave soul asked him if there was a planned redundancy programme.
"That's not a phrase I'm familiar with," batted back Murdoch.
That's probably a 'yes', then.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

The rise of Bilbo Roberts

More on Dan "Bilbo Baggins" Roberts, the Guardian business supremo who has never been accused of not taking himself seriously enough.
Baggins has started a new blog -- "Dan Roberts on Business" -- to which he gives prominence on the Guardian website.
Early efforts suggest he may need to have a sense of humour transplant. Sadly, not many folk at the Guardian have that much to spare these days....

Monday, 12 January 2009

Randall resignation pledge - already?

Jeff Randall, Essex man's favourite financial commentator, is back with a daily show on Sky News, starting this evening. In the trailers, he asks himself what he'd do if he was a member of the government during this financial crisis - telling viewers that he'd resign.
Really? Jeff, of course, has quit from the public sector before, vacating the high-profile BBC Business editorship nicely in time for his replacement, Robert Peston, to steal all the glory by brilliantly covering the credit crunch.
So surely Jeff would not voluntarily forgo the limelight once again?

Friday, 9 January 2009

An Audience with Bernie Madoff (Part One)

Welcome to the first in my new series - An Audience with Bernie Madoff - in which we relive some of the great man's gems. First up, is Bernie explaining how close he was to regulators. Priceless, as his investors might say.

Credit Squisses again

More credit squeezing at Credit Suisse. You'll recall how the Swiss bank has been axing staff and lunch budgets, as well as paying bonuses out of its most toxic assets. Now I hear that its bankers have received an email telling them not to charge cabs taken before 10pm and - shock horror - to only fly economy on business trips. When will the torture end?

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Carry on cutting

Are the rumours about an imminent demotion for shadow business secretary, Alan Duncan, all about him missing the Conservatives' recession tour to go skiing in Davos?
The reality is that the genial front bencher's performance during much of the financial crisis has been absolutely woeful, during which time he has been practically anonymous.
A quick scan of the cuttings engine finds just 74 national newspaper references to "Alan Duncan" along with the words "recession" or "bank" in the past six months. Meanwhile, there are 1,066 using the same terms relating to business minister, Lord Mandelson.
That's a (reasonably) fitting number, being as it seems to spell Doomsday for Dunky.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

A few little problems for Bilbo Roberts

A rocky start to the New Year for Dan Roberts, the new Guardian business supremo.
Hacks unsure who he is or why he is there have begun referring to him as Bilbo Baggins, which may be a reference to his stature.
Still, it turned out well for Bilbo in the end. Wikipedia says of the hobbit:
"While Bilbo initially is a mild-mannered, easygoing bumbler, he grows confident and wiser as the story progresses."
Insiders say this could be Robert's progress too, but suggest he tone down the pomposity by several notches.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

SlackBelly's (second) tip of the year

As the national newspapers begin their traditional share-tipping competition to see which of them can relieve their readers of the most money, I present my second offering of 2009: sell your shares in Standard Life.
Predictably this tip has no scientific grounding and, indeed, is not really my own. Instead, it is based on word from the Palace, following the knighthood bestowed on "Handy" Sandy Crombie, the Standard Life boss whose biddable behaviour during the credit crisis is seen by some to have clinched him his gong.
Her Maj, you see, has a distinctly patchy record as a stock picker. As soon as Sir Stuart Rose was invited to bow before her, his Marks & Spencer recovery fell to its knees. Shares in WPP have never quite been the same since boss Sir Martin Sorrell was honoured at the peak of the market in 2000; while the less we dwell on Sir Fred Goodwin and Royal Bank of Scotland the better.
So will "Handy" Sandy also suffer from Brenda's curse?

Monday, 5 January 2009

SlackBelly's (first) tip of the year

Now is the traditional time of year beloved by national newspaper share tipsters when they compete over which one of them can lose more of their readers' cash, by recommending various top investment "tips" and reviewing their performance over the past 12 months.
So I'm delighted to announce that last year's first prize in the "quality" daily category goes to the Times, as its Tempus Ten selection managed to perform even worse than both its competitors and the slumping market, shedding 37.8%.
Meanwhile, those genuises at the Independent made a gallant effort to burden their followers with even more eye-watering losses than their own newspaper's holding company, by recommending a basket of shares that fell 37% (while this year's selection tempts, "Let's be daring this year: after all, how much worse can it get?").
And coming in last position in this section, with a drop of only 25.7%, is the Daily Telegraph's Questor column - that still published news of its losses under the self-congratulatory headline: "Questor share picks beat the FTSE 100".
Quite why these rags feel the need to continue this humiliation is not clear. Apart from the obvious (to most) challenges of trying to deliver absolute returns with a long-only portfolio of a handful of shares which must be held over a 12 month period, there is a more simple flaw to these pisspoor columns: that is, the writers are hacks, not investment experts, who haven't got the slightest clue what they are talking about.
All of which leads us to my first tip of the year: short these columns' 2009 selections immediately (if you haven't done so already).