Business View: Sorry, Standard Life - nice guys do come last

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The Independent Online

Resolution must feel like the prettiest girl on the dance floor. No wonder it extended its offer deadline so that Standard Life could make a bid. And one can only imagine the sense of deflation when it finally has to choose just one suitor.

Pearl is the most predatory male, with endless chat-up lines and a shiny suit, who won't take no for an answer. He doesn't mind rubbishing his rival, happily telling anyone who'll listen that since he is wedged up with more than 24 per cent of Resolution's shares and has friends in high places with a couple more per cent, there is no point in Standard Life even trying to get a date.

Moreover, Pearl says that even if Standard Life comes up with a clever plan where he doesn't need as much approval, he is going to hang around and make a nuisance of himself like a jealous oaf.

He'll hold on to his stake and get in the way of major decisions, preventing Standard Life from taking Resolution private or selling off assets. Moreover, Pearl says, Resolution and Standard Life just don't have that much in common and won't get as much benefit from being coupled. Even onlookers (investors) don't fancy seeing them together, says Pearl – every time Standard Life shows an interest, its shares fall.

Who knows what will happen over the weekend, except that in life it's not usually the nice, but rather the shy, boy who wins.

New chapter at BP

BP agreed with US authorities last week that it would pay $380m (£185m) in a wide-ranging settlement covering a variety of problems at its US operations, including a refinery explosion, oil pipeline leaks and the manipulation of propane prices.

Tony Hayward, the lizard-like replacement for Lord Browne, BP's former chief executive, wants to draw a line under the past. Hopefully, not under the past in which BP was one of Britain's strongest companies with excellent leadership.

One cannot help feeling that John Browne has suffered disproportionately for BP's failings because of his homosexuality, which he was anxious to keep out of the papers. Some people choose not to hide their personal proclivities and satisfy them in their offices, as the book about Lazard, The Last Tycoons: The Secret History of Lazard Frères & Co, reveals. It tells how Felix Rohatyn, who pushed the firm to number one in mergers and acquisitions, had sex in his office (presumably, only when celebrating another mega-deal). This caused senior partner André Meyer to shout: "Felix, why don't you get a hotel room like the rest of my partners!"

Such behaviour is only an option for those so powerful, they know their underlings wouldn't dare to go to the press. Or so exhibitionist they do not care. Maybe if Lord Browne had been embarrassingly louche at work, he would have got away with it.

Weird science

James Watson, the scientist who won a Nobel prize a very long time ago as part of a team, has been suspended from Cold Spring Harbor, a large US research facility, after remarks reported in the British press. He was quoted as saying his hope is that everyone is equal but that "people who have to deal with black employees find this is not true". But after his suspension, his own actions aren't looking too bright.

Contrast this with one of Britain's smartest businessmen, Tesco's Sir Terry Leahy, who employs lots of people from ethnic minorities and makes huge profits. He's clearly worked out that having overcome – in some cases – quite substantial barriers to getting hired and retained, they mostly work harder, better and for longer than many of their white counterparts.

Morbid curiosity

There is still much we don't know about how our genes interact with each other. But try telling that to commercial firms that offer to trace your origins or to TV development executives. African Americans have already been misled by some unscrupulous companies into thinking their ancestors came from parts of Africa they might not really hail from. But the latest genes-based TV programme strikes me as absurd.

Called Killer in Me, it features media luminaries including Andrew Neil, GMTV presenter Fiona Phillips and former England footballer John Barnes, who take a journey into darkest... well, into themselves, actually. Their genetic material will be probed to see what diseases they might just die prematurely of.

No doubt I'll be proved wrong and the show will be a hit. But you wouldn't catch me trying to find out what medical gloom might await – not least because we don't know enough about genes to be sure of getting it right.

Expected to go out this week, Killer in Me is, I hope not an example of the quality programming we've been told to expect from ITV1.

Andrew Murray-Watson is away

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