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NICK LEESON'S out of jail, the film of his exploits at Barings, Rogue Trader, is showing nationally, and now to cap it all an employee of Barings has written a satirical novel about a merchant bank hit by a derivatives disaster.

Quite a brave move by Mark Cohen, one might have thought, especially as he works directly for John Bolsover, chairman of Barings Asset Management (BAM).

Not a bit of it, insists the author of The Butcher's Ball, slated for publication on 2 September. Mr Cohen says: "The powers that be know all about my book and are quite happy with it." Anyway, it's got nothing to do with the Leeson derivatives disaster which ruined the bank, he insists. "It does start off with a derivatives disaster in a merchant bank, but then it becomes a comic thriller, with a bit of Internet sex."

Barings also knows that Mr Cohen, a former Parliamentary researcher for Lord (Greville) Janner, the former Labour MP, harbours long-term ambitions as a writer. Mr Cohen, a Glaswegian linguist, published his first novel, Brass Monkeys, last year, to much critical acclaim.

Barings people may find the dedication in the latest book a bit unsettling, however: "Dedicated, with much affection, to all my friends and colleagues at Barings, past and present, and (I hope!), future."

Within days of Ronnie Hampel taking over as chairman of United News & Media, the group which owns "The Express", the huge portrait of his predecessor, Lord Stevens, that graced the 9th floor foyer of the Grey Lubyanka, has mysteriously disappeared.

It has been replaced by a bland oil painting by the landscape artist Madge Bright.

TOP BUSINESSMEN usually view the golf club as a safe haven from work. Not so Lawrence Urquhart, chairman of Scottish Widows, the mutual insurance company which is in the process of being gobbled up by Sir Brian Pitman's Lloyds TSB.

Mr Urquhart says that every time he ventures on to one of the courses near his Oxfordshire home (he is a member of the Lilley Brook Golf Club and Frilford Heath Golf Club) he is mobbed by eager doctors from the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford, nearly all of whose pensions seem to be with Scottish Widows.

They see Mr Urquhart as something of a saviour, having read about the juicy windfalls for members the takeover will be bring, and they are eager to shake his hand and buy him drinks. Even so, he says he feels a "very, very heavy responsibility" over allowing the present generation of policyholders to cash in on reserves built up during more than 200 years of Scottish Widows' mutual history.

CHICAGO-BASED bean counters Arthur Andersen are boosting their push into corporate finance in London by appointing their first global marketing director, Martin Cardoe, who is leaving Goldman Sachs after what he calls "six very happy years" as press spokesman.

THE JOHN LEWIS Partnership has seen its co-operative structure, under which all staff are termed "partners", as a cornerstone of its success since its first store was opened in 1929. As such, it has never needed any non-executive directors.

All this changed yesterday with the appointment of Mrs Steve Shirley, an IT entrepreneur, who has been brought in from the outside by chairman Sir Stuart Hampson as the equivalent of a non-exec to advise on "strategic issues."

Mrs Shirley arrived in Britain from Germany as an unaccompanied child refugee in 1939. She founded the FI Group in 1962 with pounds 6. Not everything changed at John Lewis with her arrival, however; she has been given the rather archaic sounding title "General Inspector".