Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Easter funny hunt

Slack will now be spending the next few days overdosing on hot cross buns and chocolate. Back after Easter - girth permitting.

Krafty business

The law of unintended consequences strikes again. I hear that Cadbury World, the chocolate maker's Willy Wonka-style theme park, is doing a brisk trade around the Easter holidays. The reason? Apparently parents are worried that nasty Kraft, Cadbury's new owner, might look to close the attraction down and this might be the last chance they get to visit. Who'd have thought it?

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

"Surprise" prognosis on Antisoma

Whither Antisoma, once one of British biotech's greatest stars that's now worth less than its £50m bank balance?
Its shares slumped 75% to 8p yesterday (plus another 1.3p today) after trials of its cancer drug failed - all of which sounds like bad news for patients, investors and, er, the City "experts" who followed the company.
As recently as September, KBC Peel Hunt reckoned the shares were a "buy" at 27p (and set them a target of 70p!) while last month Charles Stanley confidently told its clients to wade in at 35.5p. D'oh!

Monday, 29 March 2010

Sindy Column...

Willie Walsh reckons he's not getting enough support over the strike from BA chairman Martin Broughton. For that (and a few more little tales) from the Sindy column this week, click here.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Striking resemblance

Has anybody noticed the uncanny resemblance between strike-obsessed Unite leader Tony Woodley and Eric Richard, the actor who played Bob Cryer in television's The Bill? Are they perchance, related?

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Fostering a climate of suspicion

As the Financial Services Authority dons the marigolds to probe deeper into the Square Mile's bowels, I wonder what percentage of City investors will be suspected of skulduggery? Absolutely loads if this (entirely unrepresentative) extrapolation from a 2008 market report filed by the Daily Mail's veteran hack, Geoff Foster, is a guide.
In his report Foster innocently mentions the names of three investors. Of the trio, my old friend Achilleas Kallakis is due to appear in Southwark Crown Court in May on fraud charges, while I read that Iraj Parvizi has just been nicked for supposedly being part of an alleged insider trading ring.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Flight from Berliner

A Guardian employee writes in regarding the news that the Guardian Media Group chief exec is going into the aviation industry: "I see Carolyn McCall is going to easyJet. Apparently her strategy is to give away all the seats for free - they will get millions more passengers, and will, er, somehow make revenues at some point, from something or other...."

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Media rant

Journalist's job email Gorkana reports that: "The Guardian’s Digital Researcher Kevin Anderson has taken voluntary redundancy and is due to leave The Guardian on 31 March."
Slack wishes him all the best, but the description of his career that follows is telling. Kevin, we read, "was part of the team responsible for the network of blogs". Before he was at the paper, he worked for the Beeb, "where he developed a blogging strategy for BBC News".
The thing about the internet is that it's supposed to be inexpensive (this website for example, is proudly cheap in all ways). As soon as you've got teams of people overseeing networks or individuals "developing strategies", it becomes costly and giving away your content for free is then foolish and unsustainable.
What the Guardian seems to be doing is creating layers of bureaucracy to manage its web offering in ways that ape the structure of the newspaper (i.e., very heavy on marzipan management).
You only need look at the group's balance sheet to see that this is total madness. When is someone going to do a proper job on Alan Rusbridger and what a mess he has made of that organisation?

Monday, 22 March 2010

Sindy Column...

For this week's effort, click here.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Modest Ratty leaves realistic legacy

Despite the fuss over multi-million pound City bonuses, the reality is that the large awards go to a very select group (resulting in misleading averages). That fact is illustrated by the case of Richard Ratner – the genial former Seymour Pierce retail analyst and perhaps the best known City scribbler of recent years.

Ratty died suddenly at the end of 2007 after a distinguished, and lengthy, City career. I now discover that he left his entire estate – worth £373,948 – to his wife, Silvia.

That’s a tidy sum, for sure, but does it really represent the massive bungs the politicians are currently associating with the Square Mile?

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Heineken refreshes the marketing stunts other beers cannot reach

I'm not a natural supporter of marketing execs, but I do like this...

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Lady Parker

I'm sorry to learn of the death of Lady Parker, the wife of the late Sir Peter Parker, the former chairman of British Rail.
Her obituary in today's Times states: "She is survived by her four children: Lucy, Alan, Nathaniel, the actor, and Oliver, the film director." Indeed so, but why doesn't Alan's career warrant a mention? Last time I heard he was one of the Square Mile's most influential players, as founder and boss of City PR giants Brunswick.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Punters pray to St Paddy

A decent start to the Cheltenham Festival for the bookmakers with the defeat of odds-on favourite Dunguib in the first (Paddy Power had a liability of £4m alone on the supposed "banker of the week").
Still, elsewhere I hear that William Hill has been busy schmoozing investors to float the idea of another bond issue later this year - in order to refinance its debt (again) and extend maturities.
And who was conducting this City charm offensive? Er, none other than departing finance chief Simon Lane. Should an outgoing CFO really be allowed to present to the City, I hear you ask? The answer, in Cheltenham week, seems to be "yes".

Monday, 15 March 2010


Tubby Liberal MP Matthew Taylor getting stuck in the revolving doors at the entrance to Portcullis House. Taylor squeezed out through a small gap and informed the security guard that it was only his svelteness that allowed him to escape. Sarcastically, presumably.

Sindy Column...

Class actions imminent against the banks? Click here.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Insider out

Malcolm Calvert, who is appealing his conviction for insider trading that was handed down this week, joined Her Maj's broker Cazenove in 1961 and retired in 2000. At the time of his departure a colleague commented that Calvert, known as "Streaky", had "had enough of the City". I suspect the feeling's now mutual.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

City keeps its pants on

I read that Prudential boss, Tidjane Thiam, is having difficulty with his "love-bombing" of the City.
That's odd. Pru insiders reckon he can charm the pants off anybody...

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

The curse of the curse

It's March, so time for those lazy pieces about the Veuve Clicquot Businesswoman of the Year award being cursed. Is it really?
Sure, Nikki Beckett of NSB Retail Systems issued a profit warning shortly after collecting her gong in 2000 - a setback that came after 1988 winner Sophie Mirman saw her Sock Shop slip into administration.
But, since inception in 1974, that's about it, while other winners include Body Shop founder Dame Anita Roddick (1985), Stagecoach's Ann Gloag (1990), Pearson's Dame Marj Scardino (1998), LK Bennett's Linda Bennett (2003) and Alexander Mann's Rosaleen Blair (2007).
Some curse.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Extra time needed for Old Trafford hospitality

More financial trouble at Old Trafford?
As the "Red Knights" try to force the Glazer family from Britain's richest football club, I see that Manchester United are still desperately trying to flog off corporate hostility packages for Wednesday's match with AC Milan.
"Last minute hospitality packages available for this European football showpiece," says the ad, before begging the prawn sandwich munchers to "call now".
Hurry, hurry!

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Sindy Column...

For this week's effort, click here.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

The Royal Bach

Has anybody noticed the uncanny resemblance between Royal Bank of Scotland boss, Stephen Hester, and the composer, Johann Sebastian Bach? Are they, perchance, related?

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Who guards the Graun?

More trouble at Guardian Media Group, the left-leaning publisher that seems intent on putting itself (as well as its readers) to sleep.
In the latest missive to staff Brian Williams, the "joint" father of the chapel, dispatches a barely veiled attack on Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger and the rest of the group's management.
He asks: "What exactly does this place stand for these days? Our readers – be it in print or online – look to us because they think we represent an inclusive, fair and transparent option in an increasingly corporate world. For that to be more than a mere facade those adjectives need to apply to the way we operate as well as what we publish. Yes, the NUJ wants job security, decent pay, reasonable terms and conditions and the opportunity to have our voice heard. But we now have a demand that supersedes all others – accountability of those taking the decisions that vitally affect all
our futures."

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Ad rule change comes too late

News of a relaxation in the rules governing the advertisement of condoms, comes a little too late for some in adland.
Inspired by the success of the famous Country Life jingle "You'll never put a better bit of butter on your knife", I recall one ad exec pitching a spoof commercial to his contraceptive company client. His slogan? "You'll never put a better bit of rubber in your wife".
It never made the airwaves.


Paul Boateng, former chief secretary to the Treasury, enjoying the free Wifi at the Baker Street branch of Apostrophe, the fancy coffee shop chain.
Boateng, who was sitting alone, hogged a table for four in the busy outlet, while surfing the web with abandon long after he'd finished his drink.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Will Dan dare to return?

Spotted, last week, visiting FT Towers ... Guardian business supremo Dan Roberts.
Word has it that the bearded one is seeking to return to the Pink 'Un as an associate editor, on the grounds
that - friends say - "The Guardian is finished".
Roberts - known at the Graun as The 167 owing to his rather tasty salary - has earned a reputation as an, er, hands-off operator at the UK's favourite left-leaning "quality" paper, which means many of its spectacularly lazy business staff may miss him.