Hugh Alexander, father of the British Yellow Pages, has just pulled off another publishing coup. Thirty years ago, Mr Alexander, a former submariner who had joined Roy Thomson's publishing empire, joined forces with the Post Office to publish the first Yellow Pages. The venture was an enormous success and for more than five years, he released all 81 regional volumes of the handbook. He continued as a publishing entrepreneur, working at News International to start Elle. When the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, he became captivated with opportunities in Eastern Europe, where telephone numbers were considered state secrets run by the security services. He moved from Bulgaria to Hungary and onto Russia, starting local publications, employing students whose skills he found unspoilt by communist attitudes. "The secret is to publish comprehensive guides which are easy to read," said Mr Alexander. Now his work is bearing fruit and he has sold St Petersburg Yellow Pages to Petersburg Long Distance, a Canadian company backed by Cable & Wireless, for more than £1m. However, the 64-year-old businessman is not leaving the market. "There is much to be done for domestic and mobile telephone users," the indefatigable entrepreneur tells me.
The blood-letting at Barings will result in few tears inside or outside the bank. One sadness is the dismissal of George Maclean, the dour Scottish banker appointed head of banking in 1986. He ran a notoriously tight loan book and developed a reputation as a very conservative manager. As head of banking, his name did appear on many documents but many regret he had to pay the highest price.