Bunhill: Job offer in a million for the man who lost one

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TOMORROW'S fifth anniversary of the Great Crash of '87 prompted me to try to track down Anil Gupta, the trainee accountant who despite earning the paltry sum of pounds 6,400 a year, managed to persuade stockbrokers County NatWest to let him play the options markets with Monaco-style abandon.

The pounds 1m bill left by Mr Gupta when stock markets around the world plunged with the same alacrity as the present Government's credibility ratings, was naturally carried by the firm (or rather, its customers and shareholders).

Alas, Mr Gupta appears to have taken his 15 minutes of fame and disappeared. But an intriguing clue as to what might have been his fate had he hung around a little longer came from a former colleague.

Shortly after news broke of Mr Gupta's startling facility for persuading other people to let him gamble away their money, the phone rang.

On the other end was a lackey of the late and unlamented Bob Maxwell, who had been charged with seeking out Mr Gupta and offering him a job.

The Great Man had been impressed by the youngster's drive and initiative, it appeared. By then, however, Mr Gupta had exercised the simplest option available to him and vanished. Hence the colleague was unable to pass on the offer.

There must be a moral in that somewhere. A bottle of shampoo to anyone who can put their finger on it.

CAPTAIN Bob was certainly a litigious man, but at least he never went as far as to sue himself, a course of action (if you'll forgive the pun) that has just been instigated by Geoff Booth, the man now in charge of the pension funds of the Maxwell private companies.

In the chaos that followed the collapse of the Maxwell empire, Mr Booth, a partner at actuaries Clay & Partners, was appointed a director of AGB Pension Trustees, which looked after some of the Maxwell funds. As the smoke began to clear, a decision was taken to change the funds' trustee company to Clay & Partners Pension Trustees - where Mr Booth is also a director.

To crystallise an insurance claim, however, Clay & Partners (Mr Booth) is now required to sue AGB Pension Trustees (Mr Booth).

'I've never had to sue myself before,' he said. 'It came as a bit of a surprise in the end, because our lawyers didn't tell me when they were going to serve the writ,' he added ruefully.

One trusts (sorry) he will be in a position to come to an amicable out-of-court settlement.

DOOMSTERS wanting to draw cynical comparisons with the way politicians used rearmament as a way out of the last slump might care to read something into Michael Heseltine's increasing tendency to don military attire.

Last Wednesday saw the President of the Board of Trade dressed up to the nines and striding around the Westland factory in Yeovil in a padded pilot's outfit and helmet.

It might simply have been his way of protecting himself against the flak coming the Government's way over pit closures, but an altogether bleaker interpretation is possible in view of the recent deterioration in our relations with Germany. Especially when you learn that Hezza's Mercedes broke down on the way back from Somerset. Wars have started over less . . .

PLENTY of hot air down in Shropshire, where accusations are flying thick and fast between two rival ballooning firms. Behind the row is a dispute between Per Lindstrand, the professional balloonist famous for being Richard Branson's co-adventurer, and Thunder & Colt, the ballooning company that he founded and from which he was recently unceremoniously ejected.

Mr Lindstrand, who recently set up a competing ballooning outfit within a stone's throw of Thunder & Colt, is in fighting mood. 'There's no room in the market for two of us. One of us will die.'

Meanwhile, he is pursuing his old firm with a vengeance. His case against Thunder & Colt for unfair dismissal failed - on a technicality, he insists. So now he is having another go.

The colourful Mr Lindstrand does not mince his words, so most of what he has to say about his former colleagues is unprintable. Nevertheless, the essence of it is that he feels they are a bunch of City types put into the company by its main shareholder, Sun Life.

Ian Seddon, finance director at Thunder & Colt, says his accuser has his head in the clouds. 'I just don't know why he is saying all this. It's completely untrue. I just want to get on and run the business, but needless to say, we will be vigorously defending the unfair dismissal case. Sun Life is a shareholder, but has no representatives on the board nor does it try to influence us.'

So why was Mr Lindstrand dismissed? 'I'm not going to embarrass anyone. If he wants to tell you, that's up to him.'

Perhaps Mr Lindstrand himself would say? 'It was a conspiracy,' he asserts. Let's just hope they don't all come down to earth with too much of a bump.

NORMAN Lamont's hollow declarations about keeping sterling strong will have disappointed some less-than-legitimate British foreign exchange dealers.

On the irrepressible Costa del Crime, Spanish police have arrested five sunburnt Britons, who are accused of forging banknotes.

The move follows the arrest of around 20 people in London earlier this month.

In Spain, police found forged notes with a face value of pounds 7,000, seven cars with false number plates, false identification documents and, just to add spice, a Browning pistol and plenty of ammunition.

Nevertheless, the choice of sterling and dollars, which they allegedly exchanged for pesetas, seems odd. Marks would surely have been a more informed choice, but then the intricacies of the exchange rate mechanism have never been a hot topic in Benidorm.

AS a footnote, I must just tell you about Gary from Smith New Court, who was in big trouble the last time I saw him. He had taken nine shots on the third at Bay Hill Golf Club and still hadn't reached the green. He had been in the water twice and was now in the sand. It was threatening rain. His office seemed a long way away.

In fact it was only 10 yards distant, across the grimy boundary of Farringdon Road on the edge of the City. For Gary and his mates were not braving the elements of Bay Hill (wherever that may be); they were in the comfort of the Craig Defoy Golf Academy, Europe's first 3-D computerised golf course and driving range.

The academy is the brainchild of Mark Younger, an architect who, while 'resting', happened to come across a display of computerised golf machines at the National Exhibition Centre and thought they would be ideal recreation for hard-pressed City types.

Raising money from business contacts, Mark was soon up and running. The investment, running to pounds 150,000, kitted out the centre with two golf course simulators and three analysers (to make that swing really swing). Not to mention those other accoutrements that no self-respecting golf club could be without: putting green, hospitality suite and bar.

(Photograph omitted)

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