A fat cat sees the funny side of losing his job

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The Independent Online
Cedric Brown may be the public's idea of the ultimate fat cat, but even after handing in his notice as chief executive of British Gas he still reserves his sense of humour. He is due to leave in April. As he was asked yesterday about possible further job cuts at British Gas, on top of the 25,000 already announced, he said, with a twinkle in his eye: "It's far too early to say ... but there'll be at least one more."

Paul Oelman, an associate director of Gerrard Vivian Gray, is moving to a rival private client stockbroking firm, Fleming Private Asset Management, a subsidiary of Robert Fleming. The new firm regards this as quite a coup since they think Mr Oelman has been one of the main business-getters at Gerrards.

The 43-year old associate director joined Gerrards from another broker, Quilters, in 1980, and specialises in high-net-worth people. At the moment he is on "gardening leave", which could prove a bit chilly.

St Francis of Assisi move over. David Miles, chief economist at Merrill Lynch, is taking a "rather substantial" pay cut in order to return to the world of academia. Frustrated at the need to provide instant reactions all the time, Mr Miles is spurning the filthy lucre of the Square Mile in order to put in some quiet research as professor of economics at Imperial College, London.

Well, almost. He is still negotiating a "consultancy" role with Merrill, so some of the shekels will still roll in. Mr Miles said yesterday: "My own view is that if as an economist you spend all your time in the City reacting immediately to the last bit of news on the screen you end up being not a very good economist."

Other economic gurus seem to agree. Gerry Holtham recently left Lehman Brothers to go to the Institute of Public Policy Research. Peter Spencer of Kleinwort Benson jumped ship to Birkbeck College, London. Even the great Roger "inflation is dead" Bootle of HSBC puts in some hours at Manchester Business School. Perhaps at last the caring Nineties have arrived.

More stuff about bean-counters. Not only has Chris Swinson, one of the accountancy profession's biggest thinkers, just been elected vice-president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants - and hence its next president but two - he has also signed up as a non-executive director of Kato, the provider of marketing and publishing services to accountants.

The move by Mr Swinson, formerly national managing partner of Binder Hamlyn and now a partner with Stoy Hayward, has a touch of piquancy, since it comes as the consultancy hires Phil Shohet from the clutches of Douglas Llambias, the firebrand member of the institute council and Mr Swinson's one-time associate on his working party investigating regulation of the profession.

Mr Shohet describes his 11 years at Buckmans, the advertising, marketing and PR arm of the group headed by the energetic and vociferous Mr Llambias, as "interesting times".

But, with the accountancy profession in a certain amount of turmoil, he predicts plenty of opportunities in the commercial director's role he starts in April.

The film Casino reminded Stuart Wheeler, managing director of London spread-betting agency IG Index, of his own days in Las Vegas. Way back in the 1960s Mr Wheeler became fascinated by a scheme to win at blackjack developed by Professor Edward Thorpe of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The scheme depended on counting cards, and the young Mr Wheeler put it to great effect at Caesar's Palace (above).

When he was rumbled by the pit bosses they told the relevant dealer to "shuffle up", thus scotching his card-counting. Mr Wheeler beat this by changing his betting patterns, but then gave himself away - by smiling to himself. The various thickset men in dark glasses who ran the casino then asked him to leave, in no uncertain terms. These days Mr Wheeler's firm deals in everything from betting on the Footsie to the Cricket World Cup. Just over a month ago IG Index expanded into foreign exchange dealing. But no blackjack.