CITY DIARY:An expensive day at the ball game

Tom Clancy follows the example of our own Sting. He shows he has more money than he can keep his hands on by losing a fortune to a con man. The American author of The Hunt for Red October has been relieved of $1.6m by an alleged fraudster he met at a baseball game.

US prosecutors claim that Richard Scott told the author that he could make his money earn 30 to 40 per cent by investing it in equities. So impressed was Mr Clancy that he took his new financial adviser straight home and wrote him a cheque for $400,000 (as you do). The rest came later.

Mr Scott, the story goes, did not to simply vanish with the money. No, he apparently invested it in some speculative funds with Paine Webber, with much the same effect.

The experience is bound to prompt yet another novel on Wall Street and global financial meltdown. Not that Mr Clancy is on his uppers. He has earned $28m in the last two years.

Problems of a typically Ugandan nature appear to have blighted parts of the Forte empire. The hotelier has been forced to read the riot act to the management of Travelodge, the cheap and cheerful roadside inn operation, after a startling jump in the room occupancy rates. When they hit 150 per cent it finally dawned on the Forte people that the beds were being used for something other than a good night's sleep.

Such hanky-panky will probably remain beneath the dignity of Sir Rocco Forte, the group's chairman, who started the day yesterday with the intention of shooting pheasants. Thanks to the Granada bid he didn't get a shot off. But Granada's boss, Gerry Robinson, got a shot in of his own. "I get invited on pheasant shoots all the time,'' he says. "I just can't stand the idea of doing it.''

Cold comfort for John Major in the viewing figures for the party conference season, which have just landed on BBC desks. Tragically for the Conservatives, the Prime Minister did not top the ratings. Come to that he did not even come second, or third, or fourth. No, Mr Major's keynote address in Blackpool on 13 October attracted only the fifth-largest audience.

Tony Blair's speech to the Labour party conference on 3 October topped the ratings with one million viewers. The second-highest figure was achieved by Michael Heseltine on a breakfast phone-in the next day (discussing the Blair speech). The bronze medal also went to Mr Heseltine for his one-legged-man impersonation at the Tory conference and fourth place went to Brian Mawhinney

That left Mr Major trailing in fifth with 700,000 viewers.

A display of cowardice worthy of the firing squad from the directors of the National Grid. In the process of briefing the City on the nuts and bolts of their business, the richly remunerated bright sparks have suddenly developed a yellow streak on the question of their salaries.

David Jones, group chief executive, and John Uttley, finance director, are happy to talk personally about electricity. But at the first mention of pay packets an interrogator is whipped off to another room and locked in with a PR man - all of which is a bit odd given that Mr Uttley at least is giving his pounds 60,000 windfall to charity.

Pulses race at marathon Maxwell trial as OJ Simpson's lawyer is spotted in the public gallery. Johnnie Cochran was invited to see how large-scale trials are handled over here by Smith Purnell, the company that provides a simultaneous computer transcript of the trial to the judge and barristers.

During his flying visit Mr Cochran managed to squeeze in a quick cup of coffee with the Maxwell judge, Lord Justice Phillips, during one of the morning breaks. In camera, alas.

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