The City Diary

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Trust your parents to embarrass you – particularly when they're politicians

John Whittingdale, right, the Tory MP who chairs the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, managed to shop his 14-year-old son in the House of Commons earlier this month. During a debate on software piracy, he declared: "On his laptop at the moment are a number of films that are on show at the Odeon now. They are not on DVD because they have not been legally released."

Warned by Liberal Democrat MP Don Foster that the Internet Service Providers' Association – whose members are eager to avoid proposed new legislation – is looking to take legal action against pirates, Whittingdale agreed to have words with his son, but protested: "I have done my best already." Indeed, grassing up your son in Parliament is a pretty good effort.

The number to ring when very hot girls start cold calling

Making money isn't easy at the moment but a reader tells us that the appropriately named Spread Media has happened upon a cunning ruse to squeeze cash out of its unwitting "customers". The Oxford-based company typically sends out free "promotional texts" to people on its database but recently charged £1.50 for the privilege of receiving its pornographic trash.

Spread Media has promised to refund anyone left out of pocket by its unsolicited messages – but don't expect it to own up to its "mistake". You have to call it to claim any money back. The company, whose tasteful offerings include "very hot girls just waiting to chat", has been fined by the regulators in the past and received a formal reprimand for its actions.

A spokesman was unavailable for comment. But just in case its customers do want to complain, Phone Pay Plus, the body that regulates the likes of Spread Media, has urged them to get in touch on 0800 500212.

Barclays' go-between

The delightful Gay Huey Evans, right, has cleverly been headhunted to do yet another clever job, this time for Barclays Capital. She is to become vice-chairman of investment banking and investment management with a brief to develop relations between Barclays and the world's sovereign wealth funds – which still seem to have money to invest. Barclays knows all about sovereign funds as it has both Singapore's Temasek and the China Development Bank as shareholders. And if anyone can make a tripartite agreement a success, it's Huey Evans, who has worked on the buy side, the sell side and in the public sector as one of the founding directors of the Financial Services Authority.

Financial advice with all the right connections

The markets might be shrouded in gloom, with deals thin on the ground, but not everyone is glum. Legal & General bought a 51 per cent stake in specialist pensions provider Suffolk Life last week for £62m. Advising Suffolk on the matter was Malik Karim, top bod at corporate finance house Fenchurch Advisory Partners, who no doubt netted a fat fee for his work. Filings at Companies House show that Karim also owns 4,975 shares in Suffolk Life – which based on the L&G price would have netted him a bonus of £180,000. Sounds like the perfect deal.

£85,000 to watch Arsenal? It's cheap at the price

The city's favourite wining and dining venue is set to get a little bit more pricey. Arsenal Football Club is planning to raise its ticket prices in 2008-09 after a four-year freeze. Standard corporate boxes currently range from £60,000 to £85,000 a season, and those that are not on long-term contracts will go up 3 per cent. Club directors are mulling a similar hike for season ticket holders, who already fork out £600 to £1,800 a year for their seats at the Emirates Stadium. Good thing for the taxpayer that Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy (pictured) had their little love-in there this year, then, and not next.

Who's supporting Spurs?

At last, good news for Joe Lewis, the British billionaire who lost his shirt betting on Bear Stearns. Shares in Spurs – of which he is, in effect, the owner – have moved from 125p to 149p in just six weeks, suggesting the market believes a takeover is imminent. At £250m, it's affordable for any football-loving oligarch on the prowl. Given Spurs' lifting of the Carling Cup and Arsenal's recent slump, perhaps Alisher Usmanov could be persuaded?

Fergie's friends and foes

Interesting that the Coolmore racing boys, with Joe Lewis, John Magnier and JP McManus all prominent on the share register, are tipped to be going for Ladbrokes. Let's hope it's true that Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has patched things up with his former foes there, since they would then own all his old betting records from the decade during which Laddies was Fergie's bookie of choice. Bet they'd make fascinating reading.

Mining chief could yet strike a rich seam

Mick Davies, the chief executive of mining giant Xstrata, could not have been a happy man last week after seeing millions of pounds snatched away when a proposed takeover by Brazilian rival Vale collapsed, leaving him unable to cash in his long-term incentive plan. But he shouldn't be too disheartened – a syndicate of banks, led by HSBC and Santander, had offered to lend more than $50bn (£25bn) to Vale to fund the mining deal. The bid fell apart because of marketing rights, so with the banks still in place, don't assume that Vale has gone away.

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