CITY DIARY:Colour no bar to Ayling's black-and-white vision

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The Independent Online
Robert Ayling, the dapper British Airways chief executive, inadvertently reveals that he is superbly qualified for his role as chairman of Race for Opportunity, the Business in the Community initiative that aims to harness the potential of the UK's ethnic minority population.

He is colour blind.

Yes, it's true. Barely has he taken over from Sir Colin Marshall than the permanently suntanned Mr Ayling admits that he would have difficulty telling the difference between a BA hostess and her Virgin counterpart at two paces. Indeed, he probably doesn't even know he has a suntan, poor fellow.

The all-too-public diagnosis took place as the retinally challenged executive took the controls for the presentation of his maiden set of interim figures. Confronted with a set of coloured bar charts he went into a minor tailspin before inviting his audience to refer "to the bigger of the two''.

Given his affliction one wonders how Mr Ayling manages to maintain such a refined sense of dress. We should be told.

The London Stock Exchange committee of "extremely senior and able individuals'' examining the trends in private share ownership may not boast the "wide range of relevant experience'' as was originally claimed. Carr Sheppards, the brokers, are concerned that Fred Carr, their chief executive, may be out of his depth on the panel and are appealing to clients for their help.

The committee, chaired by Sir Mark Weinberg, is undertaking a wide-ranging review of the equity market and aims to identify obstacles to the growth of the private investor. This is very much the A-team, according to the LSE, which cannot stress their qualities too highly.

"In spite of this, Fred has been asked to sit on the committee,'' notes Carr Sheppards' client newsletter. "It would be an understatement to describe this as a complicated brief. He [Fred] would very much appreciate it if any of you with views on this issue would write and tell him about them.''

Mr Carr regrets that he cannot answer individual letters but he would be grateful for some ideas to throw into the debate none the less.

The seismic upheavals in regional stockbroker belts continue unabated. Granville Davies, a London-based institutional broker, yesterday paid an undisclosed sum for a seven-man team from the Huddersfield office of BWD Rensburg. The team, which started work in Leeds yesterday, specialises in smaller companies and is the latest in a long line of mass transfers stretching from Birmingham to the Channel Islands.

"People are prepared to pay substantial sums for good-quality teams,'' says Chris Broadbent, BWD's chief executive, who reckons that some full- blown mergers are overdue. In the meantime, he warns, the headhunters are making a killing.

The words candy and baby spring to mind.

Further proof (if any were needed) that a good salesman can turn his spiel to any product. A move from bedroom furniture to the chocolate business, via office furniture, might normally be considered a stiff challenge. But not for Roger Paffard, who was yesterday named as the new group chief executive of Thorntons, the upmarket chocolate people.

Mr Paffard is uninitiated in the art of the gooey stuff. He is managing director of Staples UK, the office superstore joint venture between Kingfisher and Staples. Before that he ran a very nice line in bedroom furniture at Sharps.

Flushed with adrenalin from the announcement of his move to Abbey National as managing director of the personal financial planning division, Jeremy Budden sees the value of his leaving present savaged at a stroke. Colleagues at Sedgwick Noble Lowndes, "one of the UK's largest financial services consultancies'', have not taken well to the sound bite which passed for his acceptance speech.

"With 14 years at Sedgwick I felt I couldn't ignore a job offer from a leading financial services company,'' blurts the assistant managing director of Sedgwick Financial Services.