The City Diary

May the force be with you: venture capital boss takes on Darth Vader
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Private equity executives have been demonised as coming from the "dark side" but one venture capital boss took the barb rather personally last week.

Simon Cook, chief executive of DFJ Esprit, which enjoys a stake in the online DVD group Lovefilm, chose to don the uniform of a Jedi Knight and duel Darth Vader at the firm's launch party held at the Star Wars exhibition in London's County Hall. Cook, who began his career at the home of the blue-blooded brokerage Cazenove, also wielded an eBay- purchased replica light sabre as he mingled with the great and good of the venture capital world.

"It's my daughter's but she won't mind," he said as he bounded off down the road to continue festivities at a nearby hotel.

Chef helps to keep City sweet

Tate & Lyle is hardly flavour of the month with the City following its shocking profits warning earlier this month. One thing that has not helped the company's cause is unexciting sales of Splenda, the sugar-free sweetener. Tate & Lyle makes the raw ingredient that goes into the brand sold by a division of Johnson & Johnson. So right on cue, up pops celebrity chef Antony Worrall Thompson in a certain London paper to plug the sweetener. "I always have some Splenda close by. It's fantastic because it tastes like sugar but only has a fraction of the calories." Could it be that Worrall Thompson has a commercial relationship with the makers of Splenda? I think we need to know.

Trevor's takeover tirade

The battle for Resolution is getting nasty. An email entitled "the comedy continues" arrives with the latest thoughts from MF Global Securities analyst Trevor Moss. He is not happy at all the leaks to the press that have cast doubts on the wisdom of a Resolution-Friends Provident merger. Moss has been hostile to a rival bid for Resolution from Pearl Assurance, headed by Hugh Osmond, from day one. He concludes in his rant that media commentary on the takeover has been "curiously one-sided". Perhaps, Trev, it is because you are the only person in the City who believes a Resolution-Friends deal would be a good thing for the company's investors.

Garages: a radio-free zone?

The age-old tradition of car mechanics enjoying the radio at work may be coming to an end. The Performing Rights Society, which collects royalties for songwriters and performers, is suing Kwik-Fit for £200,000 for letting its workers listen to the radio while they tinker under the bonnet, claiming breach of copyright. The PRS says that if customers can hear the radio, that amounts to a "performance". By the same logic, music could soon be banned from building sites, cabs and hairdressers. Perish the thought.

Going off at a Tangent

Will Gordon Brown call a general election this week? The chaps at Tangent Communications, listed on the Alternative Investment Market, certainly hope so. The company provides a number of "web-based services" to the Labour Party and an election would bring a slew of work its way. Analysts at Collins Stewart, the investment bank, rate Tangent's shares as a "strong buy". Do they know something we don't?

Art for profits' sake?

A rumour reaches us that Deutsche bank is about to flog off part of one of the best corporate art collections in the world. Although a sale would bring in tens and possibly hundreds of millions of pounds, a spokesman is quick to pour cold water on the rumours. But with the credit crunch still hurting profits, is it only a matter of time before the odd painting gets re-homed to top up the balance sheet?

Tesco discovers how Americans shag

Tesco is learning first hand about the extent to which Britain and America are, as once noted by Oscar Wilde, divided by a common language. In the run-up to the opening of its first "fresh & easy" US store next month, the company is having to learn a whole new vocabulary to avoid embarrassment and possible future labour, or labor, disputes.

When American supermarket workers refer to "shagging" in the stores, Brits tends to blush and worry about the children. But don't fret – this is not some untoward act in the vegetable aisle. Rather, the shagging it refers to is the perfectly innocent practice of pushing a line of shopping trolleys from one part of the store to another.

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