The City Diary

Character references flood in for 'the caring, kind, generous' Black
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The Independent Online

What do elton john, US talk-show host Rush Limbaugh and ex-Canadian PM Brian Mulroney have in common? The answer is Lord Black of Crossharbour. The three are among dozens of Conrad Black's pals who have written letters pleading for a lenient sentence for the fallen press baron. A handful of non-celebrity letters put forward to argue why Black should only get two years' jail time reportedly portray him as a caring, kind and generous man who has "paid an enormous price" since his legal woes began four years ago. The missives will be included in a bundle due to arrive shortly on judge Amy St Eve's desk. Legal pundits in the US suggest that the glowing reports about Black, which mention his conversion to Roman Catholicism, are aimed at deflecting attention from his lack of repentance.

Bond. James Bond, innit

Lots of amusing brouhaha after MI6's decision to use Radio 1's 'Newsbeat' programme as a recruiting tool. We are not sure what all the fuss is about. The urban yoof of today are surely all budding James Bonds. They are habitually violent and will sleep with anything with a pulse. Anyone who has received a text message from a teenager will also know they are already adept in the use of strange codes.

The shoe cream is trendy, but would you eat it?

This column is not in the habit of promoting new products trumpeted by desperate PRs. But something landed on the desk last week that deserves a mention. Po Zu, an achingly trendy "sustainable footwear company", has launched an edible shoe cream made from coconut oil. As well as a mid-morning snack, it can be used as a lip balm and as hair conditioner. The PR blurb says: "Meet the Swiss Army knife of cosmetics!" However, in an utterly unscientific survey, eight out of 10 journalists who tried the cream said they would rather eat Whiskas.

So do the pilots know where to find Pretwick?

Ryanair is fond of falling foul of advertising watchdogs, which regularly rebuke the low-cost airline for breaching all sorts of rules. But the company's latest advertising faux pas is one of its own making. The advert, which appeared in the 'Daily Mail' last week, promoted the latest batch of bargain-bucket deals. Sadly, Glasgow's second airport was mis-spelt as "Pretwick" rather than "Prestwick". If that wasn't enough, at the foot of the advert was a banner pointing out that Ryanair had "Avionic Mechanic Vacancies Online".

Liverpool not going cheap

Tom Hicks, one of the US entrepreneurs who bought Liverpool FC last year, may be ready to sell out, according to reports last week. Our man in the Anfield dugout is convinced that Dubai International Capital is ready to take the stake off his hands. But Hicks has apparently slapped a 1bn value on the club, more than Man Utd and Arsenal. Even die-hard Reds fans might scratch their heads at that one.

Chelsea flower show

Meanwhile, down at Chelsea FC, plans are afoot for a new stadium known as a "tulip". Chelsea has apparently identified a site in west London close to its existing home. But to get fans to the stadium will take a new Tube station. That could push the costs nearly as high as for Wembley. Should planning officers object, the new stadium design has been drawn up to be easily adapted to other locations.

She lives with you you really must talk to her

What is it that people in PR do? There are hundreds, nay thousands, of answers to this question. The latest member of the Fourth Estate to wonder about the value of PRs is this paper's very own columnist, Martin Baker. Despite several protestations to the publicity merchants promoting this past week's "Leaders in London conference", Baker kept receiving invitations to interview City fund manager Nicola Horlick, a speaker at the conference. Not a bad opportunity, one might think. But not one that Baker need avail himself of: Horlick is his wife.

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