Sunday, 28 February 2010

Sindy Column...

For this week's effort, click here.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Bauble warming

Since 2006, when he made that woeful "documentary" An Inconvenient Truth, former US Vice President-cum-environmental campaigner Al "The Thaw" Gore has been busy flying around the world collecting numerous gongs (including the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize).
Now I see that the University of Tennessee is debating whether to award him an honorary degree.
Rather than allowing the self-satisfied Gore to sit around polishing more baubles, wouldn't it be a better idea to see how we get a few of them back?

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Lacey finally tastes a bit of the action

I see that the first ever UK National Sevens Series has secured first-round funding for his venture from angel investor Ravensbeck.

You'll recall that this venture is the brainchild of former UBS banker Tim Lacey, who prefers to refer to himself as "a former professional rugby player" with Gloucester.

Despite Lacey's constant spinning, that is not quite how they remember him in the West Country. As I've pointed out before, the local press reckon Lacey “warmed the bench on a few occasions during some Cheltenham & Gloucester Cup ties” and “tasted only a few minutes of action”.

Sadly, he cannot find room for this view in his press releases.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

U-turn at One Alfred Place

It seems that there's been a rethink at One Alfred Place, the private members' club that has been axing its members.
This purge has caused quite a fuss, particularly when I discovered that my old friend Steve Tappin - the headhunter-cum-executive coach - was on the hit list.
Now Sharon Brittan, OAP's new chief exec, emails to say it has all been a terrible misunderstanding: "Steve is a highly valued member of One Alfred Place. He signed up to the club when access to it was not restricted. We have since imposed a time restriction of 100 days' annual usage on all new club memberships and on those renewing their membership. We were delighted to offer Steve to renew his membership on these new standard terms and did so in early February before any of the recent press comment on it. We understand Steve is currently considering whether to renew. We apologise for any misunderstanding caused by recent press reports."
Who'd have thought it?

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

German deficiency

I note that Lord Mandy has a new plan to create a "KfW for the UK", which was given a big push by friends at the Sunday Telegraph at the weekend. But is a state-run investment bank really such a good idea?

German state-owned banks such as West LB have suffered their fair share of problems (try asking them about Robin Saunders), while KfW is best known for transferring Eu300m to Lehman Brothers on the day it collapsed.

That little gem earned it a new nickname: Germany's dumbest bank.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Sindy Column...

For this week's effort, click here.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Friday, 19 February 2010

One in the Eye

"... [Broadcaster and journalist Peter Oborne] boarded his plane back to London. Or so he thought. In fact, I'm told that he landed in Turkey having somehow hopped on the wrong plane and has been struggling to secure a flight home since." Slackbelly, February 5, 2010.

"Oborne leapt on to what he presumed was his flight to London, sat back in his seat, and fell asleep - only to wake up in Istanbul, having boarded quite the wrong aircraft." Private Eye, February 19 - March 4, 2010.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Selling your staff

The recession has been particularly severe on the media industry – and nowhere has it been felt harsher than at the The Guardian Media Group, publisher of the Guardian and the Observer.
In fact, the company is so hard up that it's now trying to charge staff for an investigative reporting master class run by, er, two of the group's own reporters.
“SPECIAL OFFER FOR GUARDIAN/OBSERVER/ONLINE JOURNALISTS,” screams the email to staff. “David Leigh and Nick Davies are running a masterclass in investigative reporting in London on Saturday week. Tickets for only £75. That's for the whole class, which is a full-on, all-day, intense deal; plus tea and coffee and good things to eat during breaks; plus handouts; plus the mighty party afterwards with a considerable amount of free alcohol. The normal price is £125, but there are some seats unsold so they're on offer at this insanely cheap rate.”
Such generosity!

A bunch of Twitterers

My One Alfred Place stories (see here and here) in the Independent on Sunday seem to be causing a bit of a fuss within the Twitterati.

Many seem to assume that the quotes from chief exec Sharon Brittan are all part of some grand spinning strategy the club had cooked up, so they wonder why OAP would chose to run its PR in such an incendiary manner. The answer is obvious, Twitterers: it didn't!
Here's what happened: dear old SlackBelly found out about the One Alfred changes from a source and rang up the club for a response. They gave me Brittan's telephone number, I called her unannounced, asked her what was going on, wrote down her responses and then put them in the newspaper. Simples.
There was once a word which described this process, although sadly I fear it to be a forgotten art. It used to be called journalism.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Mehmet has his Phil

I read that Mehmet Sepil, the chief executive of Turkish oil group Genel, has received the largest Financial Services Authority fine ever dished out to an individual for market abuse.
Sepil's to sign a cheque for £967,005 after he discovered drilling results of Genel's joint venture partner, Heritage Oil, and then traded on the inside information.
The punishment beats the £750,000 handed out in 2006 to
Philippe Jabre, a former managing director of hedge fund GLG Partners.
He's now plying his trade in Switzerland, but I wonder: might he be tempted back to London for another assault on the record?

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Schillings makes reputation Paramount

Schillings, the libel law firm, has been somewhat off its game of late, what with a string of defeats including the humiliation of seeking that super injunction on behalf of former England football captain, John Terry.
Not that they've been humbled too much, of course. Without a hint of irony, those plucky lawyers will be hosting their "annual forum for protecting reputation in sport" which will take place on March 24 at the Paramount, the struggling private members' club at the top of Centre Point.
"Correctly balancing the needs of the corporate sponsor, with those of the sporting team and the players and personalities involved, can provide a winning formula," the flannel for last year's event informs. "However, in reality the balance is hard to achieve - and even harder to maintain - in an increasingly celebrity obsessed society."
I believe there are still vacancies for the event. Hurry, hurry!

Monday, 15 February 2010

Shooting the messenger

Dominic Prince writes in his piece, headlined Mutual Satisfaction, in last week's Spectator: "For some years I have insured a small West Country pheasant shoot with the National Farmers Union (NFU), but I had no idea they insured anything apart from shoots, farms and herds of cows. Every year I pay the premium by cheque and the service is excellent. The shoot once had a claim that might have appeared dubious: someone had shot down an overhead cable and BT sent a bill for £700 - promptly settled by the NFU."
I hear that the shooter - wild eyed or alarmingly certain depending on yourpoint of view - was none other than former Evening Standard editor Veronica Wadley...

Sindy column...

For this week's Independent on Sunday column, click here.

Thursday, 11 February 2010


Wading through today's Telegraph City Diary, I come across a tale of a mouse infestation at the offices of financial advisory house, Smith & Williamson. What fun there is to be had teasing companies who endure this embarrassing irritation. Sadly, the column could not find room to recount the recent tale of another rodent outbreak at the swanky new offices of a far more famous company: it was the, er, Telegraph Media Group.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Dire copy

Note to Bloomberg editors: please edit.
Here's a routine snippet from its wire copy yesterday on President Obama and bankers' pay.
"The president, speaking in an interview, said in response to a question."

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Roberts's literary tragedy

Does anyone over at The Guardian read the paper before it goes to print?
Evidence that no one does has always been in plentiful supply, but it is definitely getting worse.
Just one example is this sentence from a
column today called Browne's Shakespearean tragedy - which is business-supremo Dan Roberts's take on a book by former BP boss Lord Browne: "Companies, like all powerful institutions, seethe with far more nuanced internal politics."

Crash Gordon shares Spencer's pain

ICAP boss and Tory Party Treasurer, Michael Spencer, who sold shares in the interdealer broker shortly before its profits warning last week, says that when he made the trade he'd no idea the bad news was coming. He wasn't the only one. Analysts at Panmure Gordon have been continually pushing the shares - now trading at around 310p - as a "buy" since November. Last month they told clients to wade in at 456p. D'oh!

Monday, 8 February 2010

Hold on, Bannister

I've speculated before that HSBC's insurance boss, Clive Bannister - the son of the original four minute miler, Sir Roger - might want to consider doing a runner from the bank. And who could blame him? Chief exec Michael Geoghegan has decamped to Hong Kong (leaving UK staffers wondering if they too should desert London) while the bank's rowing back from sections of insurance, after putting its motoring arm into run-off plus selling its insurance broking business to Marsh & McLennan for £135m.
But was I too quick off the blocks? I see that the Office of Fair Trading is now asking for interested parties' views on the Marsh deal. Might Clive have a couple more laps to run before trousering that big bonus?

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Sindy Column...

Click here for this week's effort.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Damascene connection

Pity Peter Oborne, the former City hack turned political commentator and broadcaster.
Oborne has been in Damascus filming for Channel 4 and, having finished the gig, boarded his plane back to London.
Or so he thought. In fact, I'm told that he landed in Turkey having somehow hopped on the wrong plane and has been struggling to secure a flight home since. D'oh!

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Back of a fag packet economics...

Imperial Tobacco reports that UK duty-paid cigarette sales rose by 1pc during the last quarter - the first increase following years of decline - February 2, 2010.

"Smoking may still be on the rise in developing countries, by around 3.5% a year, but in most of the industrialised world, it's all falling numbers" - pop-columnist-turned-occasional-political pundit and all-round pompous pontificator, John Harris, Guardian February 3, 2010.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

The damned remain united

Having been brutally ousted by Joe Lewis, Simon Laffin's 59 days as chairman of pubco Mitchells & Butlers look like the corporate equivalent of Brian Clough's 44 day reign at Leeds "Damned" United. And just like Old Big 'Ead, he's not going quietly.
On today's letters page of the Financial Times, Laffin writes: "Shareholder activism is, rightly, being encouraged, but has the regulatory framework yet adjusted to this? An activist shareholder, or group of shareholders, with around 40 per cent of the equity can determine the composition of the board and, as we saw last week, effectively select the chairman."
Clearly, it's still a Laffin matter.

Monday, 1 February 2010

I'll tell you where I am - on the telly again

I see that this evening's episode of the BBC's rather contrived grifter show, Hustle, featured cameo appearances by Dragons' Den stars Duncan Bannatyne, Peter Jones and Deborah Meaden. Is there anything this lot won't do to appear on the telly?

Sindy column...

For this weekend's column, click here.