City People

CLARE MAINPRICE, 42, a litigation partner at VAT specialist Mainprice & Co, has just joined accountancy firm Baker Tilly. And before you fall asleep, I should add that Ms Mainprice is a founder member of the Groucho Club.

Ms Mainprice also harbours a dark family secret. Her father Hugh was one of the triumvirate which drew up the UK's VAT legislation in the early Seventies, making her a second-generation VAT supremo. Not something to let drop in the pub, I would have thought. Ms Mainprice says: "VAT litigation is my idea of fun!" What the denizens of the Groucho would make of that statement, heaven only knows...

u

BANKERS TRUST'S real estate team is decamping to CSFB following Deutsche Bank's acquisition of BT. Ian Marcus and Gary Wilder, of the Bankers Trust Real Estate Investment Group, are set to run CSFB's property investment and banking operation for Europe.

According to Estates Gazette, the CSFB operation will be called the European Estate Products Group, and will advise on takeovers, share and bond issues, as well as investing directly in property companies.

u

AFTER ALL the doom and gloom about the possibility that the millennium bug may cause planes to fall from the sky and so on, its good to see British business looking upon Y2K as a marketing opportunity.

The coffee and tea shop chain Whittards of Chelsea is busy selling millennium bug-shaped chocolates, while pukka gentleman's shirt-makers Charles Tyrwhitt are offering millennium bug cufflinks.

u

GEOFFREY SIMMONDS, chief money raiser for Pavilion Opera Educational Trust (Poet), a charitable body which takes opera to primary schools, had a good training.

Much of his career in investment banking, from which he retired 10 years ago, was spent with Slater Walker. A chartered accountant, Mr Simmonds also ran his own business UTC Group, now part of Michael Ashcroft's Carlisle Group.

Nowadays Mr Simmonds is far more concerned with Don Carlos than deals. "It's astonishing how primary school children understand, and more importantly enjoy, the complicated plots of operas such as Verdi's Don Carlos ... even when they are performed in Italian", he enthuses.

He created Poet in 1991 with Freddie Stockdale, its opera director. The company raises half its budget from corporate sponsors and half from charitable foundations. For instance, Poet has been running a project for Ealing schools sponsored by Glaxo Wellcome, which has offices there.

u

IF YOU have anything to do with your company's IT policy, or if your computer files have ever been "hacked-into", you will not be amused to learn that the seventh annual convention for hacking started yesterday in Las Vegas.

The organisers of DEF CON promise that the event "will act as a breeding ground for new tips and methods on hacking".

Chris Philips, spokesperson for JCP, a UK supplier of IT security, said the convention "demonstrates the influential power of the hacker".

u

PROBABLY A more welcome US import than hacking is the turnaround management specialist, the Nineties answer to the company doctor. The aim of such managers is to catch troubled businesses before they become terminal cases, and nurse them back to health. In the US such managers raise large amounts from bank lenders to fund recovery plays. Now a UK firm of accountants, Levy Gee, has got in on the act by joining an alliance called Turnaround Management International (TMI) with the American firm Allomet Partners and, in Canada, Schwartz Levitsky Feldman.

Derrick Woolf, a turnaround partner at Levy Gee, says: "We have been very conscious of the danger of blindly applying the American formula and have spent over two years working with [the Americans] to understand how best to apply this concept to the UK culture."

u

THE TRADITIONAL estrangement between "town and gown" will be a thing of the past in at least one university town, if Lord Attenborough, director of Gandhi and star of Jurassic Park, has his way.

Next week on 14 July Lord Attenborough will host a reception and dinner for 22 guests at the University of Sussex, where he has recently been installed as Chancellor. Eager to promote understanding between academics and the good burghers of Brighton and Hove, Lord Attenborough immediately founded the Chancellor's Society. The inaugural bash will include University bigwigs, led by Vice Chancellor Professor Alisdair Smith, along with prominent members of the local community.

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