City People

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The Independent Online
NO SOONER is she back from her four-day honeymoon, busy PR woman Sophie Rhys-Jones - now of course the Countess of Wessex - is tipped to join her old friend Abel Hadden at a new "crisis PR" outfit.

Well-connected Mr Hadden, a former colleague of Lord Bell, is currently setting up the company which plans to rival the likes of Max Clifford. Lovely to see the royal connection cemented at Saturday's wedding where eight-year-old Camilla Hadden was one of the two bridesmaids.

GRAHAM MORRIS, former chief executive at Rolls-Royce, who resigned rather than sign away Rolls-Royce and Bentley to the two German carmakers BMW and VW, is to tell BBC listeners of the emotional struggle he went through.

Opening his heart to Michael Buerk on Radio Four's "The Choice" this morning, Mr Morris describes his feelings when the news leaked that the famous-name cars would no longer be made at Crewe, breaking his promise to the workforce.

"It was not only breaking the commitment I'd given. It was, in emotional terms, like taking the Crown Jewels out of the Tower of London ... It was like a death in the family," he says.

YET MORE bad news for poor beleaguered Kingfisher, gazumped by Wal- Mart and losing their chief spin-doctor in the space of a week.

Now it's trouble in France where the Lagardere Group's Club Internet subsidiary is suing Kingfisher's Darty offshoot, Liberty Surf, for alleged plagiarism on its website. Coincidentally, no doubt, Club Internet is extremely upset with Liberty Surf for offering free Internet access in direct competition with its own paid-for service.

The case comes up before the Paris commercial tribunal on 23 June and Kingfisher must be more than a little worried that Club Internet obviously fancies itself as a bit of a giant-killer, having already taken France Telecom, no less, to the French competition authorities.

ANOTHER CASE of downshifting has hit the City with highly rated Kleinwort's construction analyst Celia Duncan quitting her very well paid job for the virtual offices of well-regarded private investor publication "The Analyst", whose directors run the business from their cottages in the country.

After five years in the City, Ms Duncan, 32, will have the chance to do a different type of analysis, "free of the corporate angle", from her home in South London. She tells me she is certain the sizeable pay cut will be "well worth it".

FOR THOSE well-travelled City-workers who think rickshaws and haggling are a feature only of hectic cities like Delhi, the chance has come to try any bartering skills on a new rickshaw fleet, specifically serving the City.

Bugbugs, already operating in Soho, is launching a three-week pilot scheme for 18 rickshaw drivers, employed from the local community. Uncertain so far exactly how much hard-nosed City workers will be prepared to pay, drivers are to ask passengers to agree a price before the journey begins.

While Bugbugs suggest a charge of pounds 1 per third of a mile per person it's open to haggling. Once again market forces have a chance to win out in the City.