City Diary: The First London net spreads as Devilfish looks set to fold

Click to follow

Meet Dave "Devilfish" Ulliott, pictured above with a couple of advisers, one of the UK's most famous poker players having trousered more than £3.5m in prize money during his card playing career.

He is also the frontman for Devilfish Gaming, an online poker company listed on Plus Markets that had its shares suspended last week after realising it's on verge of running out of cash.

DG's largest shareholder is Kevin Leech, the former Jersey bankrupt and star of this column, who you'll recall is also reputed to have been the largest shareholder in First London, the investment bank. It was once listed on Plus Markets too, but has now gone into administration and is owed £173m by Swiss Commodity Holding, a mysterious company where Leech was also a director.

Anyway, DG says it is now "in discussions with its advisers regarding options for either selling or restructuring and possible sources of new working capital". I wonder if one might be its auditor, Hart Shaw. It's a small Sheffield accounting firm and was once the auditor of, er, First London. It's a small world, isn't it?

Top City analysts' predictions turn sour on milk prices

A supermarket price war was blamed last week for the profits warning issued by Robert Wiseman Dairies, Britain's largest supplier of fresh milk.

Bad news for the firm's shareholders, who were around £100m poorer after the shares slumped nearly 30 per cent to 342p, as well as our gifted City analysts who had spent the summer telling investors to load up with the firm's shares. Three weeks ago, Shore Capital told its clients to buy at 484p – following the lead of Panmure Gordon (buy at 512p and watch the shares rise to 600p), Royal Bank of Scotland (buy at 479p), Evolution Securities (buy at 487p) and finnCap (snap up the shares at 481p). Solid work.

Warning: Never win a personality of the year award

I see that Jonathan Russell, head of buyouts at venture capital group 3i, has left the firm he spent 24 years helping to build and has been followed out of the door by three other senior executives.

He was responsible for more than £4bn of funds, managed by 90 buyout professionals across Europe, and some City gossips are blaming the departures on a strained relationship between chief executive Michael Queen and his top buyout man. I have another theory, however. In April, Russell scooped the Private Equity Personality of the Year gong.

The curse of the award strikes again.

Eddie joins Citi

I noted in June, that Michel de Carvalho – the Citigroup vice-chairman, former film actor, Olympian and husband of Heineken heiress Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken – had been spotted at the Champions League Final in Madrid with Eddie Charlton, the respected former HSBC Private Bank director. I idly speculated that Charlton might be on the verge of returning to the City – and lo and behold, what's this? A press release drops on my desk from Citi saying the bank has just appointed Charlton as a senior adviser.

I wonder if he'll be the last top banker to jump from the HSBC ship?

Eco-washing instructions for M&S knickers

The appointment of Marks & Spencer boss Sir Stuart Rose as an adviser to Bridgepoint reminds me of a long-standing connection old smoothie-chops has with one of the private-equity group's portfolio companies.

Environmental Resources Management advised the retailer on its green strategy, Plan A, which was promoted by the likes of my favourite M&S model, Noemie Lenoir (gratuitously pictured, inset left).

The consultant, which has also advised on the project to widen the Panama Canal and an environmental appraisal of the scheme to channel water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea, recommended that the retailer tell clients to wash its clothes at reduced temperatures, a plan that Sir Stuart said he followed himself by washing his own underpants at just 30C.

They came out smelling of, um, Roses.

A Trumped-up excuse to pick up an honorary gong

Comb-over king Donald Trump has become the latest businessman to accept one of those ridiculous honorary degrees – which are either the height of vanity or a begging letter (depending whether you're recipient or donor).

The Donald (inset, with his wife, Melania) will be awarded his gong next month at Aberdeen's Robert Gordon University (Robert Gordon's Technical College as was) "in recognition of his business acumen, entrepreneurial vision and the long-term future his company is planning in the North-east of Scotland".

Whatevere. I'm sure the university's chancellor, Sir Ian Wood, chairman of engineers Wood Group, will enjoy placing a mortar board on that unique Trump coiffure, although I wonder what reception the great entrepreneur will get from the university's foreign students – particularly the numerous Italians and Chinese. Trump is boycotting Italy until jailed US student Amanda Knox is released from her Perugia cell, while he finds it impossible to hide his disdain for the people of the world's most-populated country. "I don't have the highest esteem for their ethics," he blogs. "It's impossible to do business with them. I can't even get my name into China – which has a corrupt political and court system – because they won't let me use my own name. Why? Because it's worth something. They'd prefer to give me another that would have no meaning or significance as a brand."

And another thing ...

On a separate note, Sir Ian is not averse to these gongs himself. Despite having a first class honours degree in psychology from Aberdeen University (for which he actually had to pass a few exams) he still accepted an honorary degree from his alma mater as well as an Honorary Doctorate of Business Administration from the Robert Gordon University. Isn't life grand?

A Betfair float?

I doubt it

For the past few years there has been almost constant speculation that the online gambling exchange Betfair (right) is about to float. The last rumour was that it would go to market this month – a theory, you'll recall, that I've been rather sceptical about, not least because it would seem impossible to get the whole thing away without 23 per cent stakeholder SoftBank taking a multi-million-pound loss.

It now seems others are having doubts too. – a social networking betting site that many expect to be acquired by Betfair sometime (the companies meet to talk, occasionally) – has created a market on whether its bigger rival will list during 2010. It reckons the odds are against a float, with prices around 19-10 on it taking place, against a skinny 30-100 that it won't. Have any Betfair employees taken a punt on this, I ask Smarkets? Intriguingly, the company won't say.

Royal Bank of Scotland seeks seer

The Royal Bank of Scotland careers website is advertising a vacancy for a "Prophet Support Analyst". Bit late.