City Diary : City big-wigs gather as Dickie flies the coop

Click to follow
The Independent Online
The immortal Dickie Bird was given a rousing send-off by the great and the good of the cricketing world at a special Lord's Taverners dinner. At the top table a striking trio found itself thrown together - Ian Botham flanked by Ken Clarke, the Chancellor, on one side, and Howard Davies, deputy governor of the Bank of England on the other. Presumably "Beefy" was put in there to stop the other two droning on about interest rate policy.

The event at the Park Lane Hilton was sponsored by Sir Ian MacLaurin of Tesco, who is doing great things on the MCC's marketing committee. Mr Davies modestly suggested that cricket bat makers should name a bat after him - the "three-not-out".

The hard-fought battle for the Premier League TV rights, secured earlier this month by Rupert Murdoch, saw three competitive media barons parading before the League's 12 chairmen in a "beauty parade".

Hard questions were asked of all three, as the bidders laid out their offers. Lord Hollick's United News acquitted himself admirably, but of course to no good effect. BSkyB's Sam Chisholm merely pointed out the obvious - that only Sky had the satellite capacity and the subscription base to make a television deal work. Carlton's Michael Green, however, had a rockier ride, trading insults with Tottenham's chairman, Alan Sugar. At one point, Mr Sugar asked how Mirror/Carlton intended to distribute the matches, as the consortium had failed to line up satellite capacity.

Mr Green traded a few whispered words with his colleague, the Mirror TV chief Kelvin MacKenzie, before giving what those present said was a vague and inconclusive answer.

Mr Sugar pressed harder, leading Mr Green to erupt with: "I didn't come here to be cross-examined by you." Mr Sugar, aware that this was, after all, a beauty parade, answered the obvious: "Yes, you did." And you thought football matches were tense.

Oops. Just as the journalists who wrote off the England team as a bunch of boozing no-hopers have had to eat humble pie this week, perhaps more of such humility is called for with the Sumitomo copper scandal.

Much hue and cry was made last weekend when a letter came to light which was sent to the SIB in 1991, detailing complaints about the same Sumitomo copper trader, Yasuo Hamanaka, who lost the bank pounds 1.2bn in unauthorised trades.

It now emerges that the letter was publicised extensively by the Reuters news agency way back in 1991, and that there was a serious concern that the price of copper on the London Metal Exchange was being manipulated. The press failed to unearth anything beyond that, however, permitting Mr Hamanaka to go on losing millions for another five years.

Britain's greatest architect is being replaced by a banker. On the pounds 50 note, that is. The Bank of England has given notice that Series D pounds 50 notes will cease to be legal tender after 20 September 1996. Some 15 million of these notes remain outstanding but they are now seldom used in day-to-day transactions. pounds 50D notes, which feature Sir Christopher Wren on the reverse, were first issued in March 1981, whilst the new Series of pounds 50 notes featuring Sir John Houblon, were first issued in April 1994. Sir John was the first ever Governor of the Bank when it was founded in 1694.

There are still 56 million pounds 1 notes out there somewhere, adds the Bank. The last pounds 1 note was issued in 1984, and the Bank is at a loss as to who is holding these old notes and why. A spokesman muses : "Perhaps they're all down the backs of sofas."