CITY DIARY : Foreign blood sends City head-hunters into frenzy

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The Independent Online
Money, money, money. The bonus season in the City has always been followed by a head-hunter's version of musical chairs, and the addition last year of a series of new foreign owners of investment banks seems to have increased the frenzy. The tantrums and walk-outs at what used to be Smith New Court, recently swallowed by Merrill Lynch, is the most obvious example.

Annual bonuses were announced last month, and now both Bruce Davidson, head of UK research, and Richard Dale, deputy head, have stomped off to pastures new, with further defections rumoured. Inside Smith's building on Farringdon Road, central London, the central hate figure seems to be Andre Sharon, the American who heads up European research.

Sharon received unexpected support yesterday, however, from one former Smith's analyst, who observed: "Analysts are a notoriously fickle, sensitive bunch. It certainly doesn't feel like a melt-down. I can't think of a worse job in the world than managing a bunch of analysts. Merrill Lynch is very bureaucratic, and it was absolutely inevitable that some people would leave. But they're not panicking - yet."

More greed and fear. Rumours are sloshing about Kleinwort Benson, the blue blooded merchant bank gobbled up by Dresdner Bank last year, that when bonuses are announced next week they will be disappointing. This was denied yesterday by a spokesman.

There is also a rumour that Kleinworts' engineering research team, headed by Colin Fell, may soon jump ship, as did the utilities team under Simon Williams, which went to Deutsche Morgan Grenfell for a reputed tanker- load of dosh. This was also denied.

One thing is certain. John Duncan Grimstone, seventh Earl of Verulam, is retiring as a director of corporate finance at ING Barings, at the tender age of 44. The Earl's Who's Who entry is short: Eton, Christ Church, something in the City. The classic silver spoon ascent, it would seem. Sadly, the Earl was off ski-ing yesterday and thus was unable to comment.

However, some family history; The Verulams (from the Roman name for St Albans, Verulamium - where they still live) have a rebellious streak. The earldom was created in 1815, but the family really made its money though Enfield Cables (now part of Delta) in the first World War. The fifth Earl, John's uncle, was into philanthropy, building the Brynmawr rubber factory after World War II to bring jobs to the South Wales coalfields.

After making stuff like "non-sticky, sticky tape", Brynmawr was taken over by Dunlop (now part of BTR) and renamed Dunlop Semtex (we kid you not) in 1952. The factory was finally closed in 1986 and battle royal now rages over whether to demolish its grade II listed concrete shell dome.

The current Earl now can retire to his neo-Georgian pile. He has never showed much interest in Brynmawr but, with more time on his hands, you never know...

A bizarre man-hunt, US sources tell me, went on at the weekend for Ron Sandler, the new chief executive of Lloyd's of London, who was on a trip to the US. Californian prosecutors were scouring the country, posting lookouts at airports (such as these examples of LA's finest) after the state's decision last week to throw in the kitchen sink and go for 103 firms and individuals for alleged securities fraud by Lloyd's.

State troopers, it is understood, were on standby to serve Mr Sandler with a summons if he showed up. All to no avail: "You had the spectacle of Lloyd's CEO disappearing. Nobody knew where the hell he was," one US source said. And to no purpose. Lloyd's accepted a summons on his behalf last Thursday, served by lawyers Wedlake Bell. Chairman David Rowland and departed chief executive Peter Middleton were also targets in what US prosecutors gleefully call "the great Lloyd's round-up".