Jonathan Sparke, the tall, chirpy fellow who runs City Index, the spread-betting company, loves a gamble even more than he enjoys a good lunch. This, after all, is the man who once accepted Britain's largest fixed-odds bet, a £120,000 punt on Boris Becker to retain his Wimbledon title in 1987 (Becker was knocked out early and Mr Sparke pocketed the cheque).

His passion is taking him into new fields. He is in a party due to attend a performance of the Strauss opera Salome at Covent Garden tomorrow, and Mr Sparke is making a market with friends that the performance will finish between 10.35 and 10.42pm. "The loser buys me dinner," he says confidently.

A high-powered triumvirate from Rank Organisation nearly choked on their pints of John Smith's the other night when they were caught red-handed during a reconnaissance mission behind enemy lines. Rank's managing director, David Vaughan, operations director, Tony Marshall, and marketing director, Nick Basing, were huddled in a corner, busily taking notes at Heroes, the themed sports bar newly opened by First Leisure. Suddenly, John Conlon, First Leisure's chief executive, strode in. "Nice to see you gentlemen," he beamed knowingly. "Er, we were just passing on our way to Peterborough," blustered Mr Vaughan. A limp excuse, given that the bar is three miles off the motorway.

Whitbread's marketing team has scraped the bottom of the barrel with its promotional literature for Scarlet Lady, a fruit beer that is the first of its new ales for 1995. Scarlet Lady, we are unashamedly informed, is "a tart, refreshing ale with a taste that lingers sensuously on the tongue". What next? Leggy Blonde?

A minor hurricane is about to disrupt the clubby atmosphere at the fund manager Henderson Administration in the form of its new chief executive, Dugald Eadie. The tough-talking Glaswegian gave a no-nonsense address to staff yesterday. The cane would be flexed on time-wasting, long lunches and general indolence. Pale-faced workers should be left in no doubt that Mr Eadie means what he says. His father was a headmaster in Glasgow.

Investors in Baronsmead Investment Trust, a recently floated group that specialises in small unquoted companies, should be concerned about spiralling administrative costs within the organisation. The company yesterday faxed this newspaper with no fewer than 21 copies of its annual results statement. Sadly, Bill Brown, Baronsmead's chairman who was listed as the contact for the day, was unable to shed any light on the paper bombardment. "He's gone out for the day,'' a spokesman said.

Brrnnng. My financial astrologer rings in to warn of dire things happening in the stock market next week. Mars goes direct from tomorrow apparently, meaning that the market could be in for a bit of a wobble. But all is not lost - predictions from the crystal ball and star sign set suggest the market will romp to 3,550 by the end of August.

Kevin Greene, a partner in the London law firm Brecher & Co, takes the mickey out of his own profession in a questionnaire in The Lawyer magazine this week. The legal eagle, who stares out of the page showing a particulary cheesy grin, says his inspirational figures are John Major and Barbara Cartland, and that if he hadn't become a lawyer his chosen career would have been as a tax inspector. Most telling is his wardrobe, which includes five grey pinstripe suits, a blue blazer and grey stay-pressed slacks. In his picture, Mr Greene looks like he is wearing just that.


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