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SIGHS OF RELIEF all round at DaimlerChrysler's German factories, where the company has just told its employees that it is OK for them to talk - and write - to one another in German.

At the time of the merger between German Daimler and American Chrysler, Jurgen Schrempp, co-chairman of the new combine, prescribed that workers could henceforth only converse in English.

It seems that lawyers vetoed the idea after discovering that any "language risk" involved - as when a foreman was giving instructions - would be wholly the employer's liability.

Mr Schrempp and his fellow executives will plough on in English, no doubt with much use of two "English" words currently a la mode in Germany: "handy", meaning mobile phone, and "last-but-not-least", commonly used ahead of something considered of prime importance.

RICHARD BRANSON has been silenced by a thunderbolt.

Virgin uses a PR outfit called Consolidated Communications, whose offices in Soho in London were struck by lightning earlier this week, knocking all the phones out of action.

One bemused inmate was able to contact me via mobile phone to say that there was "a repair man in a cupboard with lots of wires coming out of it - but not much seems to be happening".

He needn't worry. It'll take more than a bit of lightning to keep the Bearded One quiet.

A PRIVATE emerging markets investment company based in Washington DC, called Darby, is about to launch two emerging markets funds, using a team hired from ING Barings.

It's quite a vote of confidence in the emerging market sector, which took such a pasting last year. And who better to lead it than Nicholas F Brady, the founder and chairman of Darby, who invented the "Brady Bond" when he was secretary of the US Treasury in the early 1990s. Latin American countries used Brady bonds to refinance their debts in order to avoid default on overseas loans.

Mr Brady went on to found his own business, and he has hired Peter Geraghty, Americo DaCorte and John Yonemoto to head up his push into emerging markets funds. The trio met at ING Barings and moved to Darby last year.

A FORMER insurance broker who spent over 30 years at Lloyd's of London has written a history of "the creation of a great city".

"The London Rich" by Peter Thorold, published next week by Viking, charts the various migrations and palatial building projects of the wealthy in the capital from 1666 to the present.

Mr Thorold says that he had long nurtured the idea of a book about London, and noticed that while there were piles of books about the London poor or London in general, the rich people who built the biggest houses had never been given their own book.

In the early 1980s Mr Thorold left Bain Hogg, the broker that used to be AW Bain Dawes and which two years ago was swallowed by American broker Aon.

He now lives in Hyde Park Gardens in Bayswater, and says he is "most definitely one of the London rich".

SPEAKING OF Lloyd's, the press office at Lime Street has had quite a clear-out, with 11 people given their marching orders last month.

Peter Hill has already gone, while Nick Doak soldiers on for the moment. Sarah Pelling is the new supremo. Mr Doak said it was "quite strange" having to co-ordinate the announcement of his own sacking.

It's all part of a management shake-up at the market. Separately Rod Sandler, chief executive, is leaving at the end of this month, to be succeeded by Nick Prettejohn.

THIS WEEK at a meeting of the Pro-Euro Conservative Party, one of its leading lights and a candidate for the european elections, former Cosmopolitan editor Marcelle d'Argy Smith, was asked what she thought of William Hague's "save the pound" speech.

Summoning all her powers of scorn, Ms d'Argy Smith told the meeting at the Royal United Services Institute in Whitehall that Mr Hague's sentiments were "nice and cuddly - like `Save the Seals' and `Save the Red Phone Boxes'. But in the context of European business life it's absolutely meaningless."

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