Column Eight: Napoleon a loser again

Fifteen partners of Ohio- based design group Richardson Smith yesterday received 59,489 currently untradeable shares in Fitch- RS, the UK designer that began talks last week with its bankers.

Fitch's shares were suspended at 41p last week, and Rodney Fitch, the group's ebullient chairman, is holding summit meetings with his bankers, his landlords and a potential investor who he hopes will save the company.

The shares come to the Yanks as the final slug of a deal struck in 1988, when Fitch's shares stood at over 250p. Fitch, though, should be careful. One of the Americans who may lose out is called Matthew F Napoleon.

As the City Road column on this page comments, the announcement of Abbey National's wacky tax credit wheeze served to obscure detailed examination of the bank's results.

In fact, City hacks attending the company's press briefing were perplexed to find that results were not even included in the press pack.

They were further bamboozled by the prolixity of Sir Christopher Tugendhat's answers to their queries. On one aspect of the tax scheme, he said: 'The data in this field is extremely exiguous.'

Look it up in the dictionary - we had to.

John White, group managing director of BBA Group, had an engagingly humble reply to questions about UK government policy and the ERM when the company announced its interims yesterday.

'I'm a failed academic economist, so whatever I say is bound to be wrong. That's why I run an industrial holding company to earn a living.'

Dr White, who was Professor Sir Roland Smith's first PhD student with a thesis on the UK machine tool industry, gave up teaching 10 years ago to follow his former mentor into the boardroom. But he still lurks among the groves of academe as pro-chancellor of Leicester University.

Shareholders in Greycoat, the beleaguered property company, have seen the net asset value of their shares plunge from 477p to 201p in a year. They may be none too pleased to see that the chairman's salary did not take a commensurate drop. The annual report and accounts published yesterday showed Geoffrey Wilson was paid pounds 367,000 - the same as the year before. But criticism may be deflected by the fact that Mr Wilson retired as executive chairman last Friday and will earn only pounds 24,500 as non-executive chief.

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