City Diary

Click to follow
The Independent Online
A RECENT speech by Sir John Browne, chief executive of BP Amoco, to his senior managers titled "The Road to a Successful Merger of British Petroleum and Amoco", has become an unlikely hit on the Internet.

When you punch in the web address for the speech, a key word from Sir John flashes up on screen - accompanied immediately by a voiceover by Billy Connolly, the Scottish comedian. Sir John has skilfully "sampled" a sketch using Mr Connolly's characterisitically salty language.

First to flash up is "Performance". To which Mr Connolly's voice says: "I want more of this." Then "Return on Capital employed". To which he choruses: "More of that."

And more of the same, until Sir John mentions "Net Cash Flow", to which Mr Connolly adds: "and all of that." So it goes on: "Personnel reductions"; " more of that." "Sense of Urgency". "We want it now. I want it more tomorrow." Finally the oil boss come to "Flexibility"; "Then our demands will all be changed so stay awake."

A bravely down-to-earth approach by Sir John. Just one thought. When I rang Billy Connolly's management company yesterday, asking whether BP had asked permission to use his voice, they said they hadn't heard about it and were looking into it. On the other hand, it wasn't BP who put Sir John's "Connolly-ised" speech on to the Net in the first place.

A BP spokesman would not be drawn on the subject, except to murmur: "We're all great admirers of Billy Connolly."

A MISSIVE from the Institute of Directors (IoD) reaches me concerning a report it is publishing: "The report, `Seeds of Discontent: The Business of Genetically Modified Food', backs recent statements by the Prime Minister and Sir Richard Sykes, chairman of SmithKline Beecham..."

Interesting. I wonder if this Sir Richard Sykes is any relation to the Sir Richard Sykes who is chairman of another pharmaceuticals group, Glaxo Wellcome....

ASIL NADIR is back. At least, he'll be back on our bookshelves soon if Bilge Nevzat, the Polly Peck boss's younger sister, has anything to do with it. Ms Nevzat, a former beauty queen and the disgraced businessman's confidante, has penned a tome, The Turquoise Conspiracy, which claims that Polly Peck's collapse from pounds 2bn Eighties stock market star to bankruptcy was caused by a British Establishment plot.

The book's blurb declares: "Nadir - one of the UK's wealthiest men, courted by Tory politicians - was bankrupted and charged with fraud. But his long- drawn-out prosecution and sensational escape to North Cyprus left a mass of unanswered questions."

It certainly does. Like why did he flee criminal charges involving pounds 30m five years ago, instead of staying to face trial? The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is still willing to take Mr Nadir to court to face these charges if he ever does return to the UK. On the other hand, Ms Nevzat says: "At the centre of the controversy set out here are the widely discredited Serious Fraud Office and the political establishment".

Ms Nevzat adds: "It is a story that more than 23,000 shareholders are waiting to read." They may be, but I'm not sure they'll be that interested in her version.

LUKE JOHNSON, whose Belgo group has been bringing Belgian beer to the Brits, has joined with a group of fellow entrepreneurs to launch an ambitious "hi-tech incubator and investment fund".

The parties are putting in pounds 10m initially to invest in UK internet and other hi-tech businesses, and then intend to float the fund in 3 months time, with a target valuation for the fund in six months of pounds 100m.

Obviously they don't think the Net bubble has burst quite yet. The other parties are GlobalNet (which is producing Freeserve's ukinvest service) and venture capital house NewMedia Investors, as well as Michael Whittaker, the former chief executive of Collins Stewart. The new venture will be called NewMedia SPARK.

THE INTERNET with its geekspeak may be the worst sector for spawning weird new words and phrases, but the venture capital scene is catching up fast, according to Peter Temple in his new book Private Equity (John Wiley and Sons).

There is the Bingo (buy-in growth opportunity) that can become a Dingo (dud investment - no growth opportunity), while a Bimbo (buy-in, management buyout) can transmute into a Bambi (bloody awful management buy-in) which may - like the Colombo (colosally overpriced management buyout) - require a Rambo (rescue after management buyout).