Column Eight: Fate of a first-class fiddler

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The Independent Online
WILLIAM Gibson - a former adviser to Richard Nixon, former executive of Chase Manhattan and savings- and-loan chairman - insisted it was simply a little misunderstanding over his frequent-flier miles programme. American Airlines, the American Federal savings bank, and a Dallas jury saw it differently.

The case is an object lesson for anyone contemplating, er, tweaking, their expense account in these recessionary times. Because Mr Gibson will spend at least two years in prison, atoning for substituting discount tickets on American Airlines for more than dollars 200,000 worth of first-class tickets.

He claimed that, as a frequent flier with American, he was routinely upgraded to first class when visiting family in Chicago. Mr Gibson was, however, unable to explain why he then proceeded to claim the more expensive tickets on his expense account at American Federal.

BAD NEWS and good news for the Canary Wharf administrators. They revealed yesterday that half a dozen potential investors may be interested in taking on the development, which owes bankers pounds 560m.

Let's hope their half-dozen doesn't include one loon who offered pounds 1bn for the project. But only if the tower is knocked down and the City Airport runway extended so a certain Sheikh can land his jet. The administrators are treating him as a nutter. But they may yet be tempted.

BETTER news for Canary Wharf comes, indirectly, from Texaco, one of a number of companies dithering on whether to take the Docklands plunge. The oil company has been shooting publicity footage of its road tankers outside the building earmarked for occupation. More tellingly, the worldwide president was recently spotted prowling the offices, ready to handpick one he liked.

THE OPPOSITE of the personality cult is practised with a vengeance at Argyll Group. The Safeway supermarkets company has just published a glossy autobiography, The Argyll Story 1978-1991. Sir Alistair Grant, the chairman and driving force behind much of Argyll's success, has the distinction of not being mentioned once. Nor is any Argyll executive. Sir James Goldsmith, who sold Allied Suppliers to Argyll in 1982, is the only person named at all.

Perhaps the shrewd Sir Alistair, a keen student of Soviet affairs, has taken note of what over-exposure did to Josef Stalin.