City People column

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The Independent Online
THE EUROSCEPTICS were handed more ammunition for their cause yesterday when the European Central Bank (ECB) was forced to apologise after its decision on interest rates was posted on the bank's website five minutes early - because an employee's watch was wrong.

Wim Duisenberg, president of the ECB, said the decision to leave rates unchanged appeared on the site at 1.40pm, ahead of the scheduled time of 1.45pm. The dour Dutchman said: "The member of staff who put it on the website had his watch wrong. I apologise for that."

The cock-up follows a similar publicity disaster two weeks ago when a council member is understood to have revealed a decision on rates to journalists ahead of the official announcement. But Mr Duisenberg insisted that the bank's image had not been damaged by what he described as a "mishap".

BRADFORD & BINGLEY Building Society embarked on a pounds 5m rebranding exercise in February, just before its members voted to demutualise in favour of plc status.

Some eagle-eyed critics have noticed that the rebranding, as well as ditching the famous logo with two bowler hats (below), involves having the words "building society" more prominently featured on its branch facades.

Knowing the vote was coming up, wouldn't B&B be better off keeping the building society references a bit more, shall we say, disposable?

Not at all, says a spokeswoman. "We will be a building society for at least the next 20 months, so it would be wrong to change the wording now."

When the next rebranding - to plc status - takes place, the costs will be included in the demutualisation costs, which B&B expect to be a thumping pounds 50m. This includes a number of mailings to the society's 3.1 million members. The cost of eliminating the words "building society" will, in contrast, be a drop in the proverbial ocean.

SAINSBURY'S JUST isn't the same, now that the last member of the dynasty, Sir Tim Sainsbury, has resigned from the board.

Granted the family still owns 35 per cent of the benighted stores group, most of that held in a blind trust due to Lord David Sainsbury's position as a science minister in the present Government.

But David Sainsbury was the last family member to be an executive director. Lord MacClaurin, the former Tesco boss, wrote in his recently published memoirs that if he had produced the kind of results at Tesco that David Sainsbury did at Sainsbury's, the institutions would have had him sacked. Anyway, Sir Tim Sainsbury, 67, is leaving after 43 years with the group, on and off.

He joined in 1956, the same year as the invasion of Suez, and took over responsibility for the group's buildings and engineering division in 1959. He joined the board in 1962 as a non-exec, and remained on the board when he was elected as MP for Hove in 1973, although he had to stand down in 1983 when he was made Tory Whip.

Sir Tim Sainsbury reached his peak as a Minister for Trade and Industry before retiring from politics in 1995. He got a knighthood in the same year.

As the saying goes, we shall not see his like again.

SIMON HERSH is a happy man. The 35-year-old rugby- playing Mancunian saw shares in his Internet recruitment business, RexOnline, double from 50p to 120p yesterday following the flotation on AIM on Tuesday.

As chief executive of RexOnline Mr Hersh has over 300,000 shares himself. He trained with Marks & Spencer for 12 months before establishing Goldsmith's Fine Foods in 1986, a food and drinks distributor. Goldsmith's has the franchise for distributing the soft drink Snapple in the north of England, and Mr Hersh's wife Judy is managing director.

Mr Hersh came into Rex a few years ago before it went on-line, something which has helped it undercut traditional headhunters.

More impressively, Mr Hersh still plays competitive rugby with his home club Salians RFC (he lives in Sale) in Division One of the Cheshire county league.

As for the game with the round-shaped balls, Mr Hersh says he was delighted when Manchester United won the "Treble", but even more pleased when Manchester City won promotion to the First Division - as most true local Mancunians would be. (A lot of Man U fans come from odd parts of the country like Ross-on-Wye and Croydon.)