Column Eight: The Bard as letting agent

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The Independent Online
At last some of London's unwanted office space has been put to good use. Rose Court, built on the site of the 16th century Rose Theatre, hosted a production of The Merchant of Venice last night.

About 550 corporate decision makers - a euphemism for prospective tenants - were entertained in some of the 157,000 sq ft of vacant space. (The theatre's remains are under a protective layer of water in the basement.)

Now the developers and owners, Imry Group and PosTel Property Services respectively, will be hoping for their pound of flesh - that is pounds 25 a sq ft or near offer.

Derek Hunt, beefy chairman of MFI, was putting on a brave face after yesterday's decision to float the business at just 115p a share. Millions of pounds poorer than he might have been, he was 'absolutely delighted'. Of course he may have simply been suffering from sleep deprivation. What with all the crisis meetings, the poor chap hadn't been to bed for three days.

Just one day after UBS Phillips & Drew's stores team was pipped at the post by County NatWest in the Extel survey of analysts, the firm has been dealt a further blow by John Smith, head of the team, who is off to take an MBA.

Stepping into the breach is Tony Shiret, of Laing & Cruickshank. What Tesco, one of P&D's main clients, will make of this remains to be seen. He has suggested that 'prudent accounting' for supermarket values would mean a 20 per cent cut in Tesco's earnings per share.

Times have changed in St Helens. Sir Antony Pilkington, chairman of the glassmaker renowned for its paternalism, saw his salary rise by 7.3 per cent to pounds 335,278 in the year to 31 March. Meanwhile, Pilkington shed 12,400 jobs worldwide, slashing the total workforce to 43,700.

Delegates to the international conference on economic crime at Jesus College, Cambridge, in two weeks time are in for some revealing discussions. A speaker on money laundering is Major Koro T'sokolo of the Royal Lesotho Mounted Police. Needless to say, he always gets his man.

Writs are flying in ever-decreasing circles among the survivors of Canary Wharf. Clark and Fenn, a sub-contractor, has sent a writ to Mowlem Management, one of the main contractors, claiming about pounds 7.5m. Clark and Fenn is a subsidiary of Trafalgar House Construction, itself a main contractor.

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