City People

Happy belated birthday to Robin Burns, one of the City's oldest working stockbrokers, who celebrated his 70th yesterday.

Jimmy Herbert is of course the "father" of the Square Mile - he celebrated his 88th birthday with fellow brokers from Hichens Harrison in January. Obviously there's something about buying and selling shares which is good for longevity.

Young Mr Burns works for private client stockbrokers SP Angel, whom he joined in 1988. A colleague is unsure exactly how long Mr Burns has been in the City, saying: "I've only been here 20 years myself."

Mr Burns' wife, Loretta, has an electrical company named after her. Well, half-named. Her father's switches-and-plugs business is called "Lorlin" after Loretta and his other daughter Linda. Robin and Loretta's own daughter Melanie married Mike Sherwood of Goldman Sachs.

Mr Burns was treated to a surprise tea-dance at the Savoy yesterday by colleagues and friends. As for retirement, a colleague tells me, "he says he'll have a look at the idea at the millennium".

Richard Branson is planning a hotel in space and has registered a company called "Virgin Galactic Airways" to ferry guests into orbit.

"We're looking at various things that could enable people to go to space for a reasonable price", the Virgin boss told Internet users in an online discussion group on Wednesday.

The bearded balloonist said: "I hope in five years a reusable rocket will have been developed, which can take up to 10 people at a time to stay at the Virgin Hotel for two weeks. I'd love to do it and I hope the dream will become a reality." He added: "I would be on the inaugural flight, of course."

n Werner Rey's case comes up in a Berne court on 31 May, more than eight years after the collapse of his Omni group. Mr Rey's colourful past includes five years with Bernie Cornfeld's IOS company at the end of the Sixties. He managed to bail out of the IOS debacle unscathed and in the early Eighties was reckoned to have made a profit of SFr27m on selling his majority stake in Bally, the shoe group, to Buerhle. He took Omni Holding public in 1987, very successfully, later taking major stakes in Sulzer and Hermes.

Then came the fall, and Mr Rey was arrested in the Bahamas last June on suspicion of balance sheet falsification, and sent back to Zurich. The costs of winding up Omni so far have been SFr20m. Creditors are owedSFr1.7bn but have so far received only SFr150m. Observers expect them to end up with about double that, making it one of Switzerland's biggest collapses.

"Well it's-a one for the money ..." The lead singer with the City's best- loved rock'n'roll band Gordon and the Gekkos has changed jobs. Eden Riche is moving from Morgan Stanley Dean Witter to Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette to be DLJ's "Managing Director, Head of International Investment Grade Debt Capital Markets". Incidentally, is it just me, or are job titles in investment banks, especially US ones, becoming more and more cumbersome?

By day Mr Riche deals in the origination and syndication of bonds. By night he fronts the Gekkos, named after the antihero of the Eighties yuppie film classic "Wall Street", which starred Michael Douglas as the baddie Gordon Gekko, whose slogan was "Greed is Good".

The band is made up of investment bankers, and has been going for a dozen or so years, playing mainly at charitable luncheons. I'm still waiting for the Gekkos to issue a "Bowie Bond" based on their back catalogue.

There can't be many people who run a law firm and a sheep farm at the same time. John Winkworth-Smith has done it for years, but now wants to write spy novels as well.

Mr Winkworth-Smith has just retired as regional managing partner of the Leeds office of law firm Dibb Lupton Alsop after 37 years with the practice. He also runs his own sheep-farm in the Derbyshire peak district. This has meant for many years getting up at 5.30 in the morning, and then commuting to do the law bit. Now he intends to sit in a barnand use his leaving present - a laptop - to write science-fiction, crime and espionage novels.

"Between 1979 and 1983 I did just four cases, all huge, which involved chasing people who had stolen hi-tech engineering secrets. Some of the briefing notes I wrote went up to 200 pages. Now it's just a case of spicing them up."

John Willcock