Another poor result for Grade

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The Independent Online
MICHAEL GRADE, the cigar-chomping former Channel 4 boss who now chairs First Leisure, was slightly depressed yesterday, and not just because of his company's indifferent results: "Glen Hoddle picked the wrong team in the first place," was Mr Grade's verdict on England's irritatingly familiar 2-1 cock-up against the Romanians.

Or there again, it could be sour grapes on Mr Grade's part because the World Cup has been luring punters away from his nightclubs, such as the Branigan's music bars.

Perhaps Mr Hoddle can make amends when he returns home, by buying the Blackpool Tower, which First Leisure recently put on the market.

THEN AGAIN, perhaps City solicitors Paisner & Co are to blame for England's defeat. The firm held a mini world cup of their own last Friday. The two finalists in the Paisner & Co Tournament, held in the shadow of Tower Bridge, were the Brockbank group, representing Bermuda, and Equitas, representing England.

The firm issued a press release this week detailing the results, which concluded: "Whilst there is of course no prospect of Bermuda winning the World Cup in France, the tournament may though be a good omen for England, like Equitas, reaching the final."

Aaargh. Talk about tempting fate. Perhaps there was a more reliable omen thrown up by the insurance cup. Though Equitas (England) reached the final, it still lost to Brockbank (Bermuda) 2-0.

THE TOP brass of Coca-Cola Beverages was in London yesterday to announce details of its forthcoming flotation. The management did themselves no favours, however, by mentioning they had sponsored a stadium in Bucharest to help Romanian fans watch and celebrate their national team's victory over England.

Serves them right that they had to drink Coke rather than anything stronger. (This is known as "sour grapes").

GRAHAM HADLEY has just returned to the City after four years in Russia helping the post-Communist authorities to set up a Russian stock exchange.

Mr Hadley, a stockbroker now in his early fifties, went out to Moscow under the auspices of the Overseas Development Administration, a British organisation which sponsors the UK Know How Fund. This fund sends in expertise to individual situations worldwide.

The Russian initiative was prompted by the warm relationship between Margaret Thatcher and Mikhail Gorbachev.

Graham tells me he soon found himself working in Perm, an industrial city 700 miles east of Moscow with a 1.2 million population. Perm produced ballistic missiles during the Cold War, and as such was a "closed city" until 1991, he says.

Graham is extremely enthusiastic about the long-term prospects for the Russian market - and for the sheer history of the place.

He says: "It's amazing in the rural areas, just like going back 50-60 years. You expect Rasputin to leap out and hit you on the nose.

"The Kremlin stretches for over 70 acres and contains three separate Orthodox cathedrals - and the stockbroking is really going places.

"The US makes a big deal out of having five time zones. Russia has 11," he says.

Under Boris Yeltsin, the privatisation process has produced 50,000 companies "overnight",so the potential for brokers is sky-high.

"The Moscow stock market has adopted a quasi-Nasdaq system, with companies worth about pounds 40bn so far. For those investors who like volatility, Moscow is the place to be."

Before going to Russia, Graham worked for many brokers in the City, which he joined in 1971 straight from Edinburgh University. He had stints in the old Wood Mackenzie, Laing & Cruickshank and Savory Milne, for instance.

Graham is now about to join the research arm of European Stockbrokers, which is itself the broking arm of Cheviot Capital, a small British independent investment house.

As for the Russian market, Graham admits it is not for widows and orphans. "It will never be dull," he says.

"The infrastructure is not really in place yet. In October 1917 someone turned the lights out - it's only just getting back there, but they're very keen to catch up," he says.

So what would it be like for a young City professional to go out there, I ask? He advises: "Be very cautious - there are many pitfalls . You'd have to rely on your instincts."

He concludes with a sombre warning: "It's shattering how the Americans have come to dominate Moscow - every restaurant has its menu in dollars. There are a lot of German and American products.

"In the UK we've been slow and reticent to get involved, which I think is a mistake. I think over the next 10 years Russia will prove a great investment."