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The Independent Online
CHERIE BOOTH, wife of the Prime Minister, has just been appointed to defend the former chief executive of the Cayman Islands Stock Exchange over an accusation of misusing confidential information.

Ann Nealon was appointed to head up the Exchange in April 1997 after a successful legal career with Clifford Chance and Linklaters, as well as a stint as a director of policy at the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

Ms Nealon was headhunted to run the Cayman Islands Exchange two years ago by a fellow lawyer Anthony Travers, chairman of the Exchange.

The Cayman Islands lists about 70 companies, mostly mutual funds. Ms Nealon accepted, and everything went well until this spring when she was offered a job at a Cayman Islands law firm, WS Walker. Mr Travers took umbrage at this, and when she accepted the job she was suspended without pay and banned from the Exchange's offices.

She resigned on 23 May, and now the Cayman Islands Stock Exchange has filed a writ against her, saying it wants to stop her using "confidential information" she allegedly gleaned at the Exchange, in her new job at WS Walker.

A court hearing is set for 28 June. When Mr Nealon approached Ms Booth in London to represent her, the PM's wife said: "I'd love to do it."

Stand by for some fireworks in the sun.

DON'T GET mad, get even. Mark Van de Weyer vacated his post as managing director of FT Magazines earlier this year on a not entirely friendly basis. One of the biggest money spinners at FT Magazines is Investors Chronicle or "IC", a weekly magazine for retail investors.

Now Mr Van de Weyer has set up his own show - a weekly magazine for retail investors.

Shares will be launched in September by the independent MSM Group, with Mr Van de Weyer heading up a team of more than 20 journalists, advertising and marketing staff.

Mr Van de Weyer says: "There is a definite gap in the market for a lively, understandable magazine that provides practical advice in a proactive and attractive style."

Do I detect an edge in these comments? Let battle commence.

FORGET RETAIL, here comes e-tail. This is the word to drop among commercial property players, who expect shopping via the Internet to generate a huge demand for warehouse space around the M25.

AT THE Mansion House Banker's Dinner the Lord Mayor of London, Lord Levene of Portsoken, hosted a sumptious feast last week for the Chancellor, Gordon Brown.

Yet many diners noticed it was not quite as sumptuous as last year or previous years. The usual four courses had been cut to three. And there were just two wines, plus port, against a wider selection in the past.

Also there was no Loving Cup at the end - a bizarre yet popular custom in which a large goblet passed from person to person for a good swig.

Even Mr Brown mentioned in his speech how proceedings had been slimmed down since the turn of the century, when the dinners boasted 14 courses, nine wines and 20 speeches, ending in the small hours.

A spokesman for the Corporation of London says: "The point is that it was a dinner, not a banquet - there is a subtle difference.

"The Loving Cup is used at the Lord Mayor's banquet at the end of the year, for example. Dinners are rather less grand affairs."

However, when pressed, the spokesman did admit that the Loving Cup had featured in dinners until about six years ago, and that the reduction in courses and wines is down to Lord Levene, a fearsome reformer and moderniser.

As for the courses, "They may well return to four next year," says the spokesman, depending on the views of Lord Levene's successor.

Lets hope so, or at this rate it will be beer and sandwiches for the City's finest.

PATRICK DE PELET, one of the pioneers of project finance in the City, is retiring at the end of the month after 21 years with Kleinwort Benson (now Dresdner Kleinwort Benson).

While others may go off to improve their golf handicap or cultivate roses when they retire, Mr de Pelet, 56, has rather grander plans - to farm in Somerset and make cognac on his French estates.

After studying modern languages at Oxford and articles at Price Waterhouse, Mr de Pelet went into banking, eventually joining Kleinwort Benson in 1978.

In the 1970s he was one of the founding fathers of project finance for the North Sea oil industry. He went on to raise finance for the Argyle diamond mine in Australia and for the Dartford river crossing in London. His biggest coup came in Russia when he won the mandate with Gazprom, the world's biggest gas company.

Now, it's a spot of hunting and shooting on the Somerset/Dorset borders, and producing cognac at his French place, "Chateau de Plassac, one of the most beautiful chateau in France". Dirty work, but someone's got to do it.

GOOD TO see that young Benjamin Wegg-Prosser, Peter Mandelson's former personal adviser, has found a niche in Pearson's press office.

After the fall of the New Labour spin doctor Mr Wegg-Prosser, still only 25,was planning to work as personal adviser for the Sun's editor, David Yelland, but the deal fell through when Rupert Murdoch launched his abortive bid Manchester United.

It was felt that Mr Wegg-Prosser's former job at the DTI might present a potential conflict of interest, now that the DTI was deciding on the Man U bid. Now Mr Wegg-Prosser is safely on the Pearson pay roll.

HEARING RUMOURS that the London Stock Exchange tower in Throgmorton Street is up for sale, I ring the LSE to be told: "We periodically do a review of our property needs but there are no plans at the moment to sell the tower or relocate."

The London Stock Exchange has just appointed Richard Ellis St Quintin, property surveyors, to review all of its property needs.

It still owns a wide variety of buildings around the country, including the Glasgow Stock Exchange building, for example.

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