CITY DIARY

Sony goes to Soho with pounds 250,000 in a suitcase

Here is one for you to ponder. What was Chris Dearing, head of Sony Entertainment UK, doing wandering round Soho just before before Christmas with a suitcase full of pounds 50 notes? For a moment it looked like a case for Inspector Knacker of the Yard. The suitcase contained pounds 250,000 - hardly petty cash - and the colourful London district is not noted for its reputation as a banking centre.

It turns out (sadly) to be nothing more sinister than a routine payment to a trade creditor. Mr Dearing was visiting the Noel Street lair of Simons Palmer Denton Clemmow & Johnson, the creative creatures behind those surreal advertisements for Sony's play station. The ad people were due a performance bonus.

Apparently Simons Palmer etc were prepared to forgo part of their standard agency fee in return for a performance-related lump sum. Once the sales of play station sales hit pre-determined targets the bonus kicked in - just in time for Christmas. None of which explains why Mr Dearing chose to pay the fee in person and in cash.

Well, it's a good feeling to run around Soho with quarter of a million about your person.

Day forty of the Forte bid ('fraid so) and it falls to Keith Hamill, Forte's fortysomething finance director to brief the City on the case for the defence. Mr Hamill began reciting from the cover of the defence document. "For hotels, for profit, for quality, for growth and for shareholder value.

"I would have liked to put four quid at the bottom,'' he added "But the advisers wouldn't let me.''

Denizens of Dulwich, the leafy London suburb (well in summer, anyway), report frenzied engineering activity over the Christmas break. BT squads arrived in force to probe and test and no expense was spared to rectify what must have been a major fault. Oddly enough, Dulwich is where Sir Iain Vallance, the BT chairman lives, prompting one observer to wonder whether the boss's free Christmas Day phone call was in jeopardy.

Doubtless this report will prove heartening for the good citizens of Surrey. That is where Sir Peter Bonfield, the new BT chief executive, lives.

Incensed at what he says is "inaccurate and misleading'' evidence presented to the Nolan Committee on standards in public life, Mark Boleat, director general of the Association of British Insurers, has taken the housing trust he used to chair to task. Circle 33 was the victim of a pounds 2m repairs fraud in 1993 and its evidence to Nolan claims Mr Boleat had "accepted responsibility''.

"Each of the statements about me is inaccurate,'' storms Mr Boleat. "I did not accept responsibility.''

The National Lottery can now be said to have invaded all walks of life. Even Britain's senior accountants are starting to play. After months of fighting a rearguard action, one abacus artist last week finally bowed to the inevitable. Grudgingly filling in the ticket, he warned his family that the chances of winning were minimal - and even if they did win the begging letters would make life unbearable.

Saturday night round the TV and not one single number right. "Well we didn't win,'' pipes up one of the kids. "Do we start writing the begging letters now?''

Bill Gates, the man who owns 80 to 90 per cent of all the software on the planet, has been elaborating on his early sex life (before he discovered everlasting happiness with his wife, above). Before you get too excited, we are talking about a long-distance affair - albeit one that allowed the Microsoft boss to sow his wild(ish) chips.

"We spent a lot of time together on e-mail,'' he admits in next month's Esquire magazine. "And we figured out a way we could sort of go to the movies together. We'd find a film that was playing at about the same time in both our cities We'd drive to our respective theatres, chatting on our cellular phones. We'd watch the movie, and on the way home we'd use our cellular phones again to discuss the show,'' he adds. "In future this sort of virtual dating will be better because the movie watching could be combined with a video conference.''

And who said romance was dead?

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