Bid for Sears revives those 1980s feelings

People & business
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THE BANK of England may have shut down most of its regional offices in the past few years in a fit of cost-cutting zeal, but it still likes to keep in touch with the common folk out in the provinces (whatever people in the North-east might think).

The Bank retains a team of a dozen agents scattered around the UK who advise the bods in Threadneedle Street on economic conditions in the country at large. When the Monetary Policy Committee meets to decide on interest rates, for instance, it will use the agents' evidence in its musings.

Yesterday the Bank appointed two new agents - Chris Brown for the East Midlands and Mark Pratt for Yorkshire and the Humber.

Both have worked for the Bank for more than 20 years. Mr Brown lists his hobbies as "DIY, caravanning, and anything to do with boats", while Mr Pratt is into "hill walking and easy cycling".

Plenty of opportunities to meet "the people" there.

THE TEAM advising Philip Green on his "will he, won't he" bid for Sears brings back some interesting memories of the 1980s.

The corporate finance team at Rea Brothers, the investment bank working for Mr Green, includes William Tebbit, son of Lord Tebbit, former Tory minister and Chingford bruiser. Lord Tebbit also happens to be a non-executive director of Sears.

So, I ask, has Tebbit Junior discussed the bid with Tebbit Senior? "Of course not," replies William Tebbit. Yes, but isn't it difficult avoiding the subject? "It's easy when you live 60 miles apart," he says.

Tebbit Junior is a director at Rea Brothers, while the head of corporate finance is Nicholas Wells - one of the former 1980s whizz kids who fell foul of the Blue Arrow affair.

Mr Wells resigned from BZW in 1989 after being heavily criticised in the DTI report into the fiasco. Earlier he worked for County NatWest (when NatWest still had an investment banking side) and helped mastermind the pounds 837m rights issue for Blue Arrow to fund the acquisition of Manpower. County claimed the issue had been a success, when it hadn't.

Mr Wells was acquitted of fraud in 1992 by the Court of Appeal. He was and remains highly respected within the Square Mile. After he left BZW some thought he might follow his strong religious leanings and devote himself full time to the Church, but in 1996 he reappeared as a director at Rea Brothers.

ONE ORGANISATION which picked up a "Golden Bull" award at the Plain English Campaign Awards last week in London was the Inland Revenue, with a letter which contained a sentence 120-words long. Ian Bingham, a tax partner with Pannel Kerr Forster in Manchester, was unimpressed: "I thought that was quite reasonable, for the tax man."

THE GREENALLS Group has poached a 37-year-old golden boy from Rank Leisure to be managing director of its pubs and restaurants business. Mark McQuater replaces Roger Young, who will be stepping down from the board next week. While at Rank Mr McQuater was managing director of the Tom Cobleigh pub restaurant chain, and before that - when he was still in short trousers, presumably - he was a director of NatWest Equity Partners and managing director of JD Wetherspoon.

ONE OF the more affable figures in the world of retail banking, Sir Brian Pearse, has been appointed chairman of the Centre for the Study of Financial Innovation, the third person to hold the post. Sir Pearse was finance director of Barclays from 1987 to 1991 when the Bank of England parachuted him into the hot seat at Midland. Coincidentally, one of his predecessors as chief executive of the Midland, Sir Kit McMahon, was also the CSFI's first chairman.

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