Bentsen does his bit to harvest more sales as new boss

People & Business
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Lloyd Bentsen, the former US Treasury Secretary who served in the first two years of the Clinton administration, has been appointed chairman of New Holland, an agricultural equipment maker based in Brentford.

Not that the former American Treasurer will himself be based in Middlesex. He's staying in New York.

New Holland is roughly the third or fourth-largest tractor and combine harvester manufacturer in the world, and was created when Fold folded its agricultural operations into Fiat's own division in 1991. On Friday New Holland lists on the New York stock market with an estimated cap of $3bn, and Fiat will sell 31 per cent of the company.

In an uncanny echo of Sir Robert Mark, the former senior British policeman who made those risible tyre ads - "these tyres make a significant contribution to road safety" - Mr Bentsen says: "As one who has for many years owned farms, I can attest to the high quality of New Holland's agricultural equipment."

Merrill Lynch, the giant American investment bank that swallowed London's Smith New Court, is making up for this economic imperialism by recruiting its first non-American to the board of directors, David Newbigging.

He is best known at the moment as chairman of Equitas, the reinsurance company that has taken on the old liabilities of Lloyd's of London. More to the point, as far as Merrill is concerned, Mr Newbigging was born in China and has spent much of his life as a big wheel with Jardine Matheson, becoming chairman and senior managing director in 1975.

Having worked throughout the Far East, he retired from Jardines in 1983, came back to London and chaired Rentokil and Ivory & Sime. As Merrill's chairman, Daniel P Tully, said yesterday, "his extensive experience throughout the Asia-Pacific region and in the UK will be an enormous asset." Quite so. Merrill also announced that David H Komansky, 57, who is president and chief operating officer, will succeed Mr Tully when the latter turns 65 next year.

To the plush Park Lane Hotel yesterday for the final of the Adam Smith Institute "Economy in Government" competition, presented by Lord Parkinson of Carnforth over a sumptuous lunch. The laudable aim of spending taxpayers' money more efficiently drew an impressive field, and the winner was David Mills, a pharmacist from Broughty Ferry in Tayside, who has designed a revamp of the NHS prescribing process.

Sponsors Ernst & Young assured the eight finalists that they were "all winners". A wife of one of the finalists described the process as "just like Miss World" with the winners being announced in reverse order. Spying the former cabinet minister, she remarked: "He really is a smoothie, isn't he."

Indeed. Lord Parkinson held the audience spellbound with his presentation speech, in which he remarked that "one reason we have such clean politics is that we have a top grade civil service."

Clean politics? He hasn't lost his touch.

The current US presidential election campaign may be a cure for insomnia, but the Athenaeum Hotel in London has pepped it up.

The hotel asked 320 US and UK businessmen and women who stayed there in October to nominate who they would like to vote for.

Three-quarters of those polled were Americans, so the answer, former Gulf war hero Colin Powell with a quarter of the votes, was not that surprising. Clinton and Dole crawled in with a miserable 2.8 per cent and 2.2 per cent respectively.

More fun were some of the other nominations, including Winston Churchill, Prince Charles, Yasser Arafat, Wyatt Earp, Oscar Wilde and Errol Flynn. My favourite however was "me".

Our very own market reporter, Derek Pain, is about to pass on the baton of Stock Market Writer of the Year to the next winner. The Inchape Falshaw Award is about to be announced, at the same time as the "Gnome Trophy" - an annual darts match between City spin doctors and journalists. The trophy is named after the late Tony Falshaw, a keen darts player, nicknamed "the Gnome", who was the stock market writer for the Daily Mail for many years.

The organisers are panicking, however, since so many dart-playing journalists have jumped the wire and become PR people. They note: "As the PR team usually win the trophy, is this a last-ditch attempt to be on the winning team?" Probably.