The City Diary


Breakfast with a retail hero can be yours for £10,000. What woman could resist?

The inspirational women of the Year Awards were held last week, with a gathering of the great and the good at London's swanky Dorchester hotel. More than £100,000 was raised at a gala dinner, which was hosted by Kirsty Young (pictured). Guest of honour was Sarah Brown, wife of the Prime Minister.

However, it was the auctioning of breakfast with Sir Stuart Rose, chief executive of Marks & Spencer, which sponsors the event, that drew most attention. Our moles tell us that after initially sluggish bidding, offers came in aplenty, eventually reaching a staggering £10,000 each from two interested ladies.

"One of bidders was a lady called Sally Allen and the other wishes to remain private," we are told. Sir Stuart and two ladies over breakfast ... We'll stop there.

Goodbye, Uncle Joe

To Claridge's for the leaving bash for Uncle Joe, aka Martin Scicluna (right), who is retiring as chairman of accountants Deloitte.

Scicluna, who joined the firm straight from Leeds University and was its youngest-ever partner, is hanging up his corporate boots after 30 years.

His party saw some of the City's most famous names pay homage – not least Deloitte's current chief executive, John Connolly, who presented a Manchester United shirt with 57 (Scicluna's age) on the back. Known in the Square Mile as one of the Gunners' most ardent fans, Scicluna is sure to have been delighted with this. More delightful still, he must now be in demand for non-executive roles on boards up and down the land – any betting on RBS?

Two wheels good for the boss of Woolworths

Amid the grandeur of the Goldsmiths' Company's Livery Hall, in the City of London, Trevor Bish-Jones, the embattled boss of struggling high-street retailer Woolworths, tells us of his new passion – cycling. The sturdily built Bish-Jones – who ran the New York Marathon last year to raise cash for the Woolworths' charity Kids First – has recently purchased a state-of-the-art £1,500 carbon fibre bike. Whizzing around the leafy lanes of the Home Counties should be a pleasant distraction from his problems in the office.

My reputation, my reputation

Plenty of City reputations are in shreds at the moment – just ask HBOS's Andy Hornby or Sir Fred at RBS. But help might be at hand in the form of Astror, a new PR service being launched to make sure personal reputations don't slide.

"When the market is tough like it is now, individual reputation is everything," says co-founder Frank Lawrenson. "Personal brand is often more important than the company's." The group is already thought to be in discussions with a number of American banks and private clients.

A lack of Olympic spirit

Yet more bad news for the London 2012 Olympics – the good people of Kent will shun the games. Yep, market research company Local Opinion has come up with the stunning discovery that only one in three residents of the county are thinking of attending the Games. Is it really that staggering that 67 per cent aren't thinking about it, more than four years ahead of the event itself?

Insuring against a slip

Poor Valerie Di Maria, marketing and communications supremo at insurance broker Willis. At the press launch of the firm's new headquarters in the City of London, she made rather a hash of introducing chairman and chief executive Joe Plumeri: "Joe joined Willis in 2001 and it's never been the same since." Realising how this might be interpreted, she quickly added: "I mean that in a good way."

Life insurance or a pair of Manolos? No contest

Nice to see friends provident, the ailing insurer that is selling off large tracts of its business, concentrating on the more cerebral aspects of finance.

It might be unable to find a buyer for its stake in fund manager F&C, but Friends has plenty of time to commission a new report: 'Sex and the City Generation: Fashionistas not cashonistas'. Apparently one in five women aged 25 to 45 are looking to "Mr Big", or a rich husband, to solve their money worries, leaving them "gambling on their futures both figuratively and literally".

"'The Sex and the City' generation is playing a dangerous game," a spokeswoman tells us. "Just 23 per cent of the single women asked have a pension, and 20 per cent have life or health insurance, yet just over a quarter own more than 30 pairs of shoes."

When bog standard becomes the target

You have until 31 July to nominate your "loo of the year" and "attendant of the year", according to a press release alerting us to the 2008 Loo of the Year awards.

"We have 60 different entry categories this year," says Mike Bone, director of the awards, run by the British Toilet Association and won last year by the Trafford Centre, Manchester. The organisers will, we are told, "be continuing to expand this annual benchmarking audit of away-from-home toilet facilities".

Only the most hard hearted would say that was a load of cr ...

Breakfast with a retail hero can be yours for £10,000. What woman could resist?

Goodbye, Uncle Joe

Two wheels good for the boss of Woolworths

My reputation, my reputation

A lack of Olympic spirit

Insuring against a slip

Life insurance or a pair of Manolos? No contest

When bog standard becomes the target

email your best diary stories to s.evans@independent.co.uk for a chance to win a bottle of 12-year-old single malt from Bruichladdich – the progressive Hebridean Distillers.

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