Cloakroom-and-dagger saga raises few cheers


Seasonal shenanigans at the Thai restaurant in Queen Victoria street have presented the mighty Citibank with something of a PR problem. Fuelled by a surfeit of Christmas cheer, three bank employees apparently wandered into the gents' cloakroom and removed three coats belonging to other diners (it probably seemed hysterically funny at the time).

Unfortunately, the mantles belonged to three Financial Times scribes who were letting their hair down at the City Desk Christmas party at the time. They were not in the least amused to find their clothing missing.

Neither were the bankers amused when they discovered the identity of the owners. The coats were quickly returned with the traditional peace offering of a bottle of champagne.

The pranksters may not be out of the woods yet. One hack reports his gloves are still missing; another says his gas bill has been opened.

The smart move would have been to pay it.

A flick through the Forte share register reveals the venerable Lord Forte to hold 1.5 per cent of the company he founded. By coincidence that is exactly the amount pledged to the Granada marauders at the close of play last Friday - the first bid deadline. No ... surely not?

Here is the first in our pre-Christmas week series of great executives and their bon mots. Alicia Bishop, an 18-year-old pupil at Heathfield school in Ascot, has written to Britain's captains of industry to ask them what advice they would give to an 18-year-old school-leaver. A booklet, compiled by ECI Ventures, has preserved the collective genius for posterity. Today we feature Sir Christopher Harding, chairman of BET, with a ditty entitled, A short course in human relations.

The six most important words: "I admit I made a mistake."

The five most important words: "You did a good job."

The four most important words: "What is your opinion?"

The three most important words: "If you please."

The two most important words: "Thank you."

The least important word: "I."

Brings a tear to the eye, doesn't it?

Midland Bank finds itself in possession of 25,000 tickets for next summer's European football championships and offers them exclusively to its credit- card customers. Credit-card points will count towards the cost of the tickets, but at a rate of pounds 1,000 for every pounds 5 off a ticket. To get the best seats you will need to spend pounds 27,500. Start saving now for France 1998.

The fax machine chatters. It is a missive from Another Place. Lord Young of Graffham, the former Cable & Wireless chairman and Thatcher minister, has been reading reports of his social life in this column.

"Yes, you did spot me enjoying Tosca at the Royal Opera House with the obligatory female companion," he faxes. "We will enjoy our Ruby wedding anniversary next March - Yours, Young."

The telephone rings. It is Gwendoline Lamb (above), the world's unluckiest investor (so you know it to be a serious matter). The Middlesborough Mistral calls to remind us that this is her 14th Christmas on sardines since her flagship investment vehicle, the Savings & Investment Bank, went belly-up on the Isle of Man. As ever, the focus of her formidable ire is Coopers & Lybrand, the liquidators of the crashed bank, which she claims is still sitting on pounds 1.8m of investors' money.

"I am still in the same position and Michael Jordan [the then senior partner of the Coopers insolvency arm] retired a year ago,'' she bellows.

Neither has the news that the liquidators are selling land in Portugal gone down well in the Lamb household. "They are out there enjoying themselves at my expense,'' she roars.

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