CITY DIARY; Al-Fayed seeks to share out the bruising burden

Earlier correspondence between Mohamed Al-Fayed and Rupert Murdoch over the sale of the now-defunct Today newspaper shows the Egyptian to be a sensitive soul.

Writing to express his high regard for the Australian-born media mogul on 12 September, Mr Al-Fayed said he had abandoned the idea of legal redress over his failure to secure the title "even though I know it will damage my hard-won reputation as Britain's champion litigator.

"My bruises are not so livid now,'' admitted the Harrods owner, who nevertheless is livid about the bills submitted by his advisers.

"Lawyers and accountants don't come cheap and I ran up a bill of pounds 100,000 in the abortive negotiations. I am not complaining. But if you were prepared to take a quarter share of the loss I would be delighted to dedicate the entire pounds 25,000 to the Mary Hare Grammar School at Newbury which does such wonderful work for children with impaired hearing ... I am sure it would not make too big a hole in your pocket.''

The plea falls on deaf ears.

A poor turnout from the home team at yesterday's annual conference of the European Financial Marketing and Management Association in London. Only three British companies turned up, contrasting strongly with the rest of Europe, which sent up to 40 delegates from each country. "Even the Andorrans are attending,'' squealed an organiser.

It would appear that the British knew what was coming. The unfortunate Continentals found themselves sitting through an ear-bashing from BMS Bossard, the consultants, who told them that financial institutions had no idea how to sell life products.

British bancassurers already knew that.

Tension at the BBC ahead of Sunday's celebrity auction in aid of Children in Need. Ariel, the Beeb's in-house magazine, reports unprecedented interest in one of the lots - namely the shirt worn by the actor Colin Firth (Darcy) after he emerged dripping and rippling from the lake in the recent production of Pride and Prejudice.

Michele Kirland, the auction organiser, claims to have "begged for about 10 days and grovelled for another three'' to persuade the costume designers to part with it. Apparently old costumes are never sold or given away.

Certainly the excitement has got to the verbally challenged Ariel. "Women who swooned over Colin Firth in the role of Darcy during the series are clammering [sic] for a sight of this shirt,'' drools the mag.

A Treasury man for the past 25 years, David Butler, director of national savings, is the new chief executive of The Princess Royal Trust for Carers. The new charity aims to raise pounds 25m from corporate donations to help long- term care workers, and out-going boss Liz Nelson says the ballet and opera- loving civil servant will have to be a red hot fundraiser. "It will be very different,'' says the 12-hours-a-day Ms Nelson.

Trenchant criticism of Cesar Pelli, the architect of the Canary Wharf tower, from an operative of Jaguar Building Services, the company that runs Britain's tallest office block. Some of the windowless storage rooms that are a feature of the tower's central spine do not have inside door handles - a discovery made by an unfortunate cleaner once the door had closed on him.

The poor fellow was posted missing, presumed dead, until someone heard screams (faint, but desperate) apparently emanating from the fabric of the building.

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