The City Diary

The investors with no name and the 'fit and proper persons' football test
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Everton Fan Andy Burnham, the new Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, recently said he wanted a review of the "fit-and-proper persons" test applied by the FA, Premier League and Football League to would-be owners of football clubs. On record as favouring the idea of supporter-owned clubs, as practised at Barcelona and proposed by some Liverpool fans last week, one wonders what Mr Burnham makes of the new takeover of Derby County. Ostensibly this has been achieved by an American company called General Sports and Entertainment, but GSE is just doing its usual job of deal-broking, with the real owners being a group of unnamed American, Chinese and Korean individuals. So, how was the FA's "test" applied in this case?

They warned us the housing market would crash ... four years ago

House prices have been everyone's favourite dinner party topic over the past few years, while any foreign visitor to the UK must surely be taken aback by the huge number of TV programmes devoted to making money out of property. In the past few years, however, there has also been a steady rise in the number of online forums, even entire websites, devoted to the other side of the housing market coin: the possibility of a crash. So it must have been with glee that the founders of – a website set up in October 2003 (great timing, guys) – took the news from Nationwide last week that UK house prices had fallen for a third consecutive month. Of course all doomsayers are bound to be proved right in the end, but housepricecrash has since been joined by other sites that compile data on the "true" state of the UK's housing market, like the wonderfully titled and the campaigning website The coming months may finally prove the making of them.

Mary misses autocue

Newsreader Mary Nightingale was doing a bit of moonlighting by hosting the fourth Quoted Company Awards last week. Held at the Grosvenor House, Park Lane, the event passed off pretty smoothly. However, we were surprised when the multi-talented ITN presenter – who started out as a eurobond dealer in 1986 – commended the winner of the Investor of the Year award, Giles Hargreave of the Marlborough Special Situations fund, for his "exemplary stockpiling ability". Best stick to the day job. At least you've got an autocue there ...

City workers join the foie gras demonstrators

A protester from the anti-foie gras demo we mentioned last Sunday has been in touch to register his disapproval of us. Quite rightly, he points out that the production of foie gras involves much cruelty to geese and ducks. However, we are just as interested to learn that the demo at Chez Gerard was not made up of students, but "many had joined after completing their work in the City". So who are these investment bankers with deeply-held views about 'les droits des animaux'? And do they get the day off for the annual May Day demo in the City?

Can you get clean in the home of killer seaweed?

After last week's news from Accenture that business is not taking climate change seriously, it is refreshing to see that 150 investment funds and venture capitalists, including Barclays, will convene in Monaco this month for the world's premier clean-technology conference. We hope capitalism can help save the world, but Monaco seems an unusual choice for a "CleanEquity" event given that its Oceanographic Museum, prominently pictured on the CleanEquity website, was responsible for the outbreak of killer seaweed ("caulerpa taxifolia") that has blighted Mediterranean ecosystems for the past two decades.

The tough questions

Another correspondent we would like to hear less from is an anonymous scribbler who keeps sending us his share tips. His latest list (composed of 26 quoted companies) comes complete with the insightful comment that he has "noticed that these shares are falling heavily" and wants to know why! Has he heard of the recession worries, or even the sub-prime mortgage crisis?

Banquets handbagged

City folk are unimpressed with the notion of a £1,000-per-head meal, as offered by City restaurant Vivat Bacchus, according to the Square Mile-focused website After asking a small group of bankers if they would stump up a grand for the "bonus banquet", most gave the idea the thumbs-down. Our favourite quote: "£1,000 is really absurd – imagine the handbag you could get for that."

Old Trafford: the theatre of dreams – and debt

With the country in the grip of a consumer debt crisis, do Britons really need a Manchester United credit card (15.9 per cent APR typical)? Apparently if you apply now, you can nominate a child to be one of 10 "lucky" mascots for United's first Champions League home game of 2008 against French team Olympique Lyonnais on 4 March. But to us it seems there is something not quite right about taking on extra debt just so your kid gets a chance of walking out on to the Old Trafford turf with a £100,000-a-week footballer.