The City Diary

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Sir Derek Higgs: a fond farewell to the Square Mile’s easy rider

Farewell to Sir Derek Higgs, one of the City's best-known corporate financiers, who died so unexpectedly last week. Sir Derek, who was 64, was to many a pillar of the City establishment – a former head of corporate finance at UBS Warburg, Sir Derek was chairman of Alliance & Leicester when he died. He was best known for the eponymous review he carried out for the Government on corporate governance. Today the Higgs report is a byword for best practice boardroom etiquette, something he was also determined to achieve ... and no mean feat.

Sir Derek was also a maverick: he would always read 'The Guardian' first before the 'FT' – unheard of in the 1980s. He loved to be challenged – he only gave up riding his giant BMW bike around the City a few years ago as the non-executive life meant he had to slow down.

Sage for a certain age

Nigella Lawson is one of the many glamorous mugs that can be found on a lifestyle website launched by Hearst Digital this weekend. The site brings together six of the UK's most widely read women's magazines, including 'She', 'Prima' and 'Good Housekeeping'. Called, it is targeting women aged 35 to 60, a group that the PRs claim is sadly ill-catered-for by the internet. The blurb says that "like minded women can meet and engage" at the site. But are 35-to 60-year-old women all so like-minded that they're desperate to hear yet more from Nigella?

Bankers lured by promises of sovereign wealth

Sovereign wealth funds have become ingrained in the public consciousness in the past year and now they're trying to get hold of our leading bankers. A managing director at a leading City bank moans that his staff keep getting tapped up by the multi-billion-pound funds. "Two years ago it was hedge funds saying 'why don't you come and work for us?' Five years ago it was the private equity guys. The sovereign wealth funds are calling around at the moment," the banker sighs, obviously fearful of an exodus.

It’s the Sindie wot won the extra bidders

Whatever developer Swayfields ends up getting for Extra, the UK's fourth-biggest motorway services chain, could we suggest that our business desk receives a cut? Last week we broke the news that Extra was up for sale and that first-round bids are due this coming Friday. A source tells us that a number of other potential bidders have entered the fray since the story was published, so adviser Bank of America has extended the deadline to 21 May.

A beard on her head

Diary's snitch at Eulogy! (yes, they really do use an exclamation mark), the PR spinner for the likes of the Royal Mail and Pearl & Dean, tells me that staff had to go to work wearing silly hats on Friday. This was part of a fund-raising exercise for the Beacon Projects – an orphanage, day centre and school in Malawi. Our insider proudly declared her hat to be "damned foxy", while disclosing that one Eulogite didn't really understand, as she came in sporting a ginger beard. Fortunately for the integrity of the day, though, the lady in question was eventually persuaded to wear the beard on top of her bonce.

Enter the dragon

The long-delayed auction for Esporta, the beleaguered gym chain, is finally under starter's orders after months of delays, but it seems that the country's biggest player, Fitness First, isn't interested. A source close to the firm says that with 75 per cent of the chain now overseas, Esporta wouldn't fit its business model. Intriguingly, the source tips Duncan Bannatyne, he of 'Dragons' Den' fame and the owner of the Bannatyne's Health Club chain: "You just can't rule out Bannatyne." However, he is likely to be up against some tough competition, as the information pack has been requested by more than 30 bidders.

Images so real you could be there ... you ARE there

Thanks to Orange, those attending the VIP junkets at the Roland Garros French Open tennis later this month will have a new benefit in their boxes: next-gen 3D giant screens, together with special viewing glasses, so that they can follow the on-court proceedings, possibly featuring the current women's champ Justine Henin (pictured). The new Japanese NHK camera will capture the action in as lifelike a manner as possible. Erm, watching live tennis in 3D ... you mean, like they could do if they just lifted their heads from their caviar troughs and looked outside at the real thing going on in 3D just yards away?