Autif chairman leads the way ... 16,000 feet to Everest base camp

People & Business

Lewis McNaught, head of the Retail Division at fund managers Gartmore and current chairman of the Association of Unit Trusts and Investment Funds (Autif), plans to follow his trip to the South Pole in January by accompanying an Everest expedition next year. Gartmore, better known for its sponsorship of the Round Europe yachting race which is taking place at the moment, is also planning to sponsor the expedition.

At this precise moment the intrepid Mr McNaught is sailing the Channel on the QEII with 800 independent financial advisers on the annual PIMS cruise, but I understand he is planning to take a Gartmore party with him next year and hopes to get them at least as far as the base camp, which is over 16,000 feet up the mountain. The thought has caused a shiver of excitement among the IFA community and even some financial journalists are thought to have started deep-breathing exercises in the hope of getting on the trip.

McNaught himself is something of an all-rounder as well as a high achiever. Apart from his commitment to roughing it in cold places he has a degree in Archaeology and Ancient History, spent five years as an Egyptologist at the British Museum and was president of Apsley Fine Art Consultants, a subsidiary of a New York broking house advising clients on fine art investment, before joining Gartmore 14 years ago.

The new head of Salomon Brothers European Mergers and Acquisitions division based in London is Philip Keevil, a 50-year-old Brit who went to Harvard Business School in 1973, married an American and decided to make his career in New York. He was a partner of Lazard Freres and then managed Warburg's North American investment banking business before joining Salomon Brothers. He was part of the team that bought Jaguar for Ford, Pilsbury for Grand Met and Brooks Bros for M&S, and most recently has specialised in energy acquisitions for US utilities.

Salomon is best known for its "offensive" skills in contrast to, say, Goldman Sachs, who are best known for their defensive expertise. Mr Keevil expects cross border M&A business to grow, with the main emphasis still on US acquisitions world-wide, although European companies are taking more of an interest in the US, and intra-European mergers are certain to multiply as the growth of European pension funds puts increasing pressure on companies to perform and merge.

He will fly to London on Tuesday, his 25th wedding anniversary, to look for a house and a school for his younger son. He is selling his house in Oyster Bay to move to central London He likes to garden, shoot and play squash, tennis and golf. He is also a keen rugby watcher and a lifelong supporter of, wait for it, West Ham!

All City customs have to start some time and the Corney & Barrow Golf Croquet League, which was first held in 1995, neatly combines the City's traditional interest in gentlemanly pursuits with just a touch of Eighties brashness to create an image of competitiveness and style which is wholly Nineties.

Two-man teams from over 100 City firms will take part in the 1997 tournament, which begins next Tuesday with a champagne launch attended by Count Edouard de Nazelle of Veuve Cliquot, together with last year's winners, the Rolling Bulls from Leopold Joseph.

The competition proper starts on Wednesday with a series of round-robin matches at lunchtimes and evenings on the lawn in Exchange Square at Broadgate in the City. The competition progresses through a knock-out stage leading to the grand final played for the Veuve Cliquot cup on 5 September.

Let us hope Tony and Robin brought a sense of humour to Whitehall. Newcastle United's Toon Army have asked their leading supporter Tony Blair to seek an opt-out from the possibility of defeat in the Champions' League next season.

They are also demanding Robin Cook ensures the Toon Army will escape possible integration in a European defence force, and secures a pledge to keep Stottie Cakes (a local sandwich speciality, I'm told) round in the face of pressure from Brussels to make them square.

Newcastle supporter Gary Carter sums up the demand in the vernacular: "Howay man, it's the least Rob can dee. Nee one's gannin to mek me eat baguettes." Newcastle shares were rock steady at 114p on the news.

I am told employees of Bell Cablemedia, now part of Cable & Wireless Communications, are so disenchanted about their prospects in the enlarged group they have taken to calling the parent's trendy globe logo the Death Star. The shares are down in the dumps too, at 263.5p after hitting 306p in early trading last month.

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