Column Eight: Building on proud tradition

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The Independent Online
These are tough times for the Dorchester Group, the once proud cabal of building company finance directors who liked nothing better than to lounge around the famous London hotel while pondering a common dividend strategy.

That of course was in the days when there was a strategy to formulate. As next week's first crop of builders' results will demonstrate, the appalling run of losses has left little room for manoeuvre.

That dividends will be cut is a certainty (is the Pope Catholic?). What is less certain is whether the highly secretive brotherhood will cling to past traditions in the face of economic adversity.

Suggestions that the club should change its name to the Berni Group will not be greeted with wild enthusiasm.

Much like the glass slipper in the story of Cinderella, so Thursday's sterling- salvaging ecu-wheeze is being touted as an instrument of destiny. While Nos 10 and 11 are bowing on stage, the search is on for the hidden hand. The prize could be the next governorship of the Bank of England.

Eddie George, the Bank's deputy governor, has already been mentioned in dispatches. But it now emerges that Barclay's Sir Peter Middleton, a former permanent secretary at the Treasury, spent many hours on Thursday cooped up with the Great Lamonto.

The US publisher Marvin Shanken has launched his glossy quarterly, Cigar Aficionado, 154 pages of advice on how to get the very best from your craving.

'To launch a new magazine in 1992 calls for a stiff drink and a fine cigar,' begins Mr Shanken. 'I must confess, however, that the force inside me is so strong that I have abandoned conventional business wisdom.' This from a man whose New York office is equipped with 5,000 cigars and an exhaust system.

The Confederation of British Industry has responded emphatically to a survey of 800 US executives which found Manchester to be one of the worst sites in the world for international headquarters. 'A load of flatulence,' exploded a wounded regional CBI spokesman.

Finland and Greenland have locked antlers again on the question of who owns the real Santa Claus. Finland has even set up Santa Claus Finland International to market the Finnish version worldwide. 'It is the real thing, just like Coca- Cola,' says Arto Tuominen, the chairman. 'We're still number one.'