CITY DIARY

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The Independent Online
Should Barings' Nick Leeson somehow escape official prosecution he will remain a hunted man. I hear the boys down at the Ministry of Sound, the south London nightclub, are looking for him. On a visit to London last year, the Watford-born trader, who used to boast about his £1m bonuses, applied for VIP membership to the trendy night-spot.

The hip membership officer vetoed his application. "He was clearly not a man of good character and was not cool enough," says Mark Rodol, the ministry's formidable manager. Leeson was issued a standard membership card, but the company did not receive his £35 membership fee and is interested in settling the debt. "He'd better watch out, I'm on his case," said Mr Rodol, menacingly.

Alan Sugar was being typically phlegmatic at the Dell. Having faced expulsion from the FA Cup for past misdemeanors, his team was struggling to stay in the championship against Southampton at the fifth round replay. As the half-time whistle blew, his team was 2-0 down and he turned to his neighbour. "I'd prefer to be turfed out of the FA Cup by Southampton than the Football Association," he said.

Telephone lines to ING, the Dutch bank hovering over Barings, were glowing so red yesterday that anxious callers were told by a recorded message that their calls could not be connected because of "network congestion".

Luke Johnson, the busy restaurant entrepreneur who is bidding for control of the Wembley Stadium company, is casting an eye over the Cobden Club. The £800,000 plan to refurbish the Notting Hill working men's club into a fashionable late-night drinking haunt for west London's celebrities was first punted by Ivo Hesmondhalgh and Bill Brannigan.

Mr Johnson hopes to float the venture on the Alternative Investment Market the moment it opens in June. His business friends, who are being roped into backing the club, fear the venue's remote location at the wrong end of the Portobello Road will make it more risky than past investments. "But when he's made money for you in the past it's hard to say no," says one investor.

Ian Smith, a South African lawyer who made his name in the Durban anti- apartheid movement, has struck a blow for the bakers of Bristol against their employers, Ranks Hovis McDougall, the bakery division of Tomkins. Following RHM's takeover of British Bakery, management sought to cut the bakers' wages and, when the workers protested, terminated their contracts and re-employed them under reduced conditions.

A Bristol industrial tribunal ruled the company's actions unfair and ordered it to pay awards totalling more than £100,000.

"It was a good kick in the teeth for the asset-strippers who seek to boost their profits with no thought for their workers," said Mr Smith, of Veale Wasbrough, who intends to use his experience in South Africa to take on similar cases over here.

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