City Diary

WILLIAM DE Winton, the star banking analyst who has just taken his team from ABN Amro to rivals Morgan Stanley, was lured with the personal promise of a trouser-bursting $10m over three years, I hear.

The deal has got rival analysts choking on their ciabatta. Mr de Winton was already a star player when he led the food retailing team at ABN. Then a couple of years ago he saw the writing on the wall and switched to banks, and came top in that too.

The remaining food retail analysts are now uneasily aware that they inhabit a rapidly dwindling sector. With Asda's sale to Wal-Mart, only half a dozen reasonably sized quoted players are left in the UK. A few more deals could leave analysts with nothing to analyse. Due to the markets obsession with size, no one wants to cover the smaller stocks like Budgens.

As news of his $10m jackpot leaks out, expect more food retail analysts to "do a de Winton".

MEN OF a certain age who once plastered their bedroom walls with posters of Tales From Topographic Oceans and Starship Trooper can now reflect that the 1970s rock dinosaurs who produced those albums, YES, are making more money than ever - thanks to the Internet.

Led by singer John Anderson and guitarist Chris Squire, YES turned over $21,000,000 last year with a mixture of old-fashioned touring and new technology. This year they hope to do even better, with over half their earnings coming via the Net.

The band were early off the mark with their own ISP (Internet service provider), and they broadcast concerts live on the web to a network of fan clubs around the world. Now they've set up their own e-commerce consultancy, "YESWORLD". Tony Blair would be pleased with them.

ALL OF which should be music to the ears of Britain's first "e-envoy" Alex Allan, charged by Mr Blair with chivvying Britain's less techie businessmen into the digital age.

Mr Allan has a maths degree from Cambridge and an MSc in statistics from University College London.

And he's still a Deadhead. A fan of the now defunct Sixties American band The Grateful Dead, that is.

According to Mr Allan's own website, "I first saw the Dead in the mud at Bickershawe in 1972 ... I have been a deadhead ever since."

Far out.

EVEN MORE far out is Michael Hardern, freelance butler and windfall guru, who has taken time off from demutualising building societies to launch his own Internet service provider.

It's going to be called doddle.net, and it will hand out free shares to registered users, shares which could be worth up to pounds 1,500 when the ISP floats, he says.

"Just log on with us and make money - it's a doddle," trills Mr Hardern. "My aim is to put Freeserve out of business, plus the other ones that are not mutually owned that are not giving big windfalls."

Other Internet start-ups that have wooed investors with free shares include Totalise and Themutual.net.

Whether making a fortune with Mr Hardern does indeed turn out to be a doddle remains to be seen.

ING, THE giant Dutch financial group, has promoted David Robins, chief executive of ING Barings, to chairman of the London-based investment banking subsidiary. It has also given Mr Robins a seat on the group's executive board.

Not bad for a man who only arrived at ING Barings last year after 18 years with the old UBS, where he ended up as chief operating officer for Europe.

ING also announced that Jan Hendrik Holsboer, 53, will step down from the board on 1 October for personal reasons.

Mr Holsboer, who had headed the group's international financial services activities, had expressed a desire to "take a sabbatical and then to pursue his career in another way,'" ING said.

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