Alliance finds a plum present for Knight

People & Business
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The Independent Online
Is Peter White, head of Alliance & Leicester Building Society, trying to butter up Angela Knight, the Treasury Minister? And could this have anything to do with her Building Society Bill which he claims could jeopardise the Alliance float? The answer is yes, if a little Christmas gift is anything to go by.

Ms Knight was looking more than pleased yesterday when she received a Mosimanns Christmas pudding from the persuasive Mr White. Attached to the offering was a little note: "Dear Angela, sorry you couldn't come to our Christmas party last week. Peter." Ms Knight says the freebie pud will adorn the family dinner table on Christmas Day lunchtime.

JP Bryan, the flamboyant Texan who runs Gulf Canada Resources, is bringing a dash of US colour to the stuffy British oil sector. "JP", as he is called, learned his trade in Texas and speaks with the "tobacco in cheek" style drawl straight out of Hollywood movies. For discussions on Gulf's hostile tilt at Clyde Petroleum he wore golden bullet cufflinks and a tie emblazoned with big pink pigs.

"Well, it's pigs to the slaughter," he said, referring rather unkindly to Clyde. Another Texanism was: "We're buying the steak, not the sizzle." Whatever can he mean?

Are tactics getting dirty on day one of the Gulf Canada-Clyde Petroleum bid? The Gulf team were yesterday saying that their man, JP, had tried in vain to telephone the Clyde top brass to inform them that he was gunning for their company. He was unsuccessful, Gulf's advisers said, because the Clyde clan was out enjoying a spot of shooting.

This echoed the plight of Sir Rocco Forte a year ago, who was indulging in similar sport in Yorkshire when the Granada bid blew up. The initial story went that it was Clyde chairman Malcolm Gourlay who was out on the moors and had been forced to scurry back to London to get all his ducks in a row.

Mr Gourlay hotly denied this, saying he could not be contacted at 7am because he was on his way back to London from his Hertfordshire home. "And anyway, I don't shoot."

Later thoughts turned to Clyde managing director Roy Franklin - that it was he who was shooting when his company was being shot at. No denial was forthcoming.

London's Father Christmases must be working overtime this year if trade at the Stafford Hotel in London is anything to go by. Executive director Terry Holmes has been running Santa's Sanctuaries all week where Santas benefit from a Happy Hour between 5.30-6.30pm.

But it seems that even the prospect of a half-price sharpener after hard hours in the grotto is not enough to entice them in. So far only around 20 Santas have been turning up. The hard core consists of professionals so dedicated to their craft that developing a red nose for the day job is seen as method acting.

London Electricity chairman Sir Bob Reid was left cursing his luck at the weekend when he first heard that talks with Entergy were starting. Sir Bob, who was in Scotland, rushed to Aberdeen airport only to see his British Airways flight grounded due to mechanical problems. He then turned to his mobile phone but decided it was too risky.

Instead he was reduced to pushing a pocketful of small change into an airport call box in order to continue his high-level discussions.

It seems Sir Bob was not in possession of a phonecard and the thought of using his credit card did not occur.

Mike Edelson, the chief executive of Conrad, which is merging with Sheffield United, will be standing down as a director of the more illustrious Manchester United. Though this is required under league regulation - it is not allowed to be a director of more than one club - he hopes to maintain an Old Trafford link. He is rather hoping Sheffield United draw the Reds in the opening game of the Premiership next season.

Given that the Blades are currently "resting" in the Nationwide Division One, some promotion or relegation will have to happen to enable this fixture. Is he so confident that the Sheffield club will win promotion? Or does he know something about Manchester United we don't?

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