CITY DIARY

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The Independent Online
As British Gas's "fat cat" chairman, Cedric Brown, settles into his new pounds 42.50-a-square-foot office down by the Strand, employees at GEC are hoping that when its headquarters lease runs out in mid-1997 they might move to equally gracious surrounds.

Almost anything would be an improvement on the current HQ - a 1960s concrete carbuncle leased from NatWest Pension Fund. But the chance looks slim.

Luxurious offices do not feature in the life of GEC's chairman, Lord Weinstock, who occupies the very un-penthouse-like top floor. Even when he steps down after next year's annual meeting, a move into the 21st century is unlikely. The company's cash pile will be severely dented after its VSEL bid.

Richard Branson is set to get further up a rival's nose when he opens a branch of Virgin Megastore in Times Square, New York, this autumn.

The next door neighbour is none other than Coca-Cola, and among his plans for the Megastore is a huge billboard to promote Virgin Cola.

As Branson himself explains: "The building is right next door to the Coca-Cola sign and on top of the roof will be the Virgin Cola sign. I will make ours at least as big as theirs."

With more time on his hands, Sir Peter Leslie, former chairman of the Commonwealth Development Corporation and deputy chairman and managing director of Barclays Bank, is to pick up the reins at NCM credit insurance as non-executive chairman.

Sir Peter is one of the team charged by the Chancellor with investigating the Barings collapse and the report is expected in two weeks time.

At NCM Sir Peter will replace Sir Douglas Wass, former joint head of the home civil service, who retires after three and a half years in the job. No doubt the credit insurer hopes that Sir Peter will stay for some time. He only managed a year as deputy chairman at Midland Bank.

As Saatchi & Saatchi gears up for the advertising bash of the year another company has cancelled its annual hooray.

Chase Manhattan Bank has scrapped its summer party - traditionally held in the grounds of its European headquarters in Bournemouth - and has already cancelled the Christmas party for 1,500 staff and their families.

The cancellations have nothing to do with the financial climate, says the company, but are related to an internal review which has been under way for five years.

Perhaps Jennifer Laing, chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi, could ask some of the Chase folk along. After all, Chase is one of the top three lenders on the advertising company's pounds 233m loan facility, which matures in 1996. A free drink and a nibble could go a long way.

Plastic rather than golden handcuff is perhaps a better way to describe the lower-than-expected retainers paid by SBC Warburg to some of its staff. Those feeling hard done by could always pop along to a new exhibition at the Design Museum sponsored by De La Rue - Paper Money, did you know? -- which assembles some comforting facts about the stuff that makes the world go round. Perhaps if they knew that every day six tons of bank notes are disintegrated into fine particles and used as fertiliser, they might feel better. Money may not grow on trees but the compost could yield some interest.

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