Business & People: Cook's guide for property world

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The Independent Online
Iain Watters, executive chairman of MPEC, has every reason to look pleased with himself as he tucks into his favourite Sunday lunch, foie gras at Cliveden, the country house retreat.

The property chief has gone on a sponsored slim for charity and has shed 13.6 kilos from his former 115.4 kilo-self.

Now Mr Watters has teamed up with Derek Penfold, a journalist, to compile a book of top property peoples' favourite eating habits. Mr Watters has written to a number of leading lights in the property world asking for a minimum of pounds 1,000 sponsorship and a contribution to the book as well.

The funds raised will be for Centrepoint, the charity which helps London's homeless young people.

The newly trim Mr Watters says: "This book will virtually be a who's who of the property world - as well as an invaluable guide to the sort of dish you should serve up at your next networking opportunity."

So it looks like carrot juice and nut cutlets all round at your next property dinner. Better take a sandwich.

Michael Hicks, head of UK sales trading at Societe Generale Strauss Turnbull Securities, is so superstitious he makes Mystic Meg look like a professor of Logical Positivism.

Mr Hicks has made a rule of never going to work on Friday the thirteenth, believing it to be bad luck. Last Friday he stayed away and was instead involved in a car crash.

The Hicks dread of the date has a good pedigree. He say: "Once I lost a lot of money at poker. Another time I crashed into a horse at night. Then there was the hotel room numbered 12a at Gatwick which should have been numbered 13, where we were delayed

And so on and on.

But last Friday his caution was to no avail. He had agreed to drop his wife off to deliver some material for the local WI. "I parked the car in the thoroughfare, I had the radio on, I picked up the new copy of Punch - and then a woman with a tow bar on her car ran into the front, she bashed in my front bumper and broke the number plate."

The ill-fated Mr Hicks continues: "We started to argue and a crowd started to assemble. Finally I got away and went to have a cup of tea. I was shaking with anger. Then the tea shop told me they had just stopped serving."

Something tells me a lucrative career on the telly awaits Mr Hicks if he ever tires of equities.

There's a certain amount of stirring in the dovecots over at 10 Lombard Street, head office of Lloyds TSB, where the rumour is that Sir Brian Pitman is about to be promoted from group chief executive to chairman.

Sir Brian has done a much better job than Margaret Thatcher of going on and on and on. He has been asked by the bank's board to stay on as group boss twice, despite being well past the normal Lloyds retirement age of 60. He will be 65 in December.

The rumours have been stoked by a board meeting due on Friday. The present chairman, Sir Robin Ibbs, is leaving next spring and the banking fraternity is agog at who will try to fill Sir Brian's shoes if he does ascend to the chairmanship.

The two deputy group chief executives, Peter Ellwood and Alan Moore, are in the running, while Archie Norman of Asda has been mentioned as an outsider. How about Richard Branson?