Gowrie gets his teeth into the property world

CITY DIARY
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LEGAL NOTE: See Independent 8 December 1995 page 25 "Mr Martin Landau: apology". A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A D D D B D B Complaint by Martin Landau. Refer to Independent Legal Dept

Simon Pincombe Lord Gowrie: In for a nightmare? Photograph: Reuter

Not content with his vampire role in the forthcoming BBC horror movie, Lord Gowrie has embraced another nightmare - the shadowy world of property. The former Arts Minister and unpaid chairman of the Arts Council has taken the Martin Landau shilling and signed on as the pounds 25,000- a-year non-executive chairman of Development Securities.

Yesterday's announcement ends a seven-month search for a public figurehead to revive the fortunes of the group. In spite of some high-profile deals - last week the company was chosen to redevelop the old MI5 headquarters at No 1 Curzon Street - shareholders have remained a largely disgruntled bunch.

The share price rocketed two years ago when Mr Landau, a 1980s wheeler- dealer who rode out the recession in Monaco, returned to take control. But the man who once cost the Church Commissioners a fortune in a speculative development in Kent failed to deliver the fireworks. The shares have headed south ever since.

What Lord Gowrie can do remains unclear. He has no experience in property and the appointment of a former government minister to the board is not always a good omen. Witness Lord Lawson at GPA, the aircraft leasing company, Lord Tebbit at BET, and Lord Gowrie himself at Ladbroke, where he is a non-executive director.

With this in mind the shares responded with a 1.5p rise before settling firmly back in the groove at 141.5p.

A nasty moment for Sir Nicholas Henderson at the Lloyd's Bank British Fashion Awards on Tuesday night, where he nearly became part of the show. Arriving late, the former diplomat and company director sneaked in a side entrance - only to be confronted by a battalion of half-naked Galliano models, who swept him inexorably towards the stage.

He was last seen ducking and diving against a tide of flesh.

The decision by the Italian parliament to prevent mobile telephone reception in the chamber by erecting a signal deflector over the building has prompted raised eyebrows from European service providers. There is concern that the move could set a precedent that will eventually limit market growth.

The Italians are passionate about their mobile phones. The contraptions are still seen as status symbols - even though Telecom Italia has the largest subscriber base in Europe. That said, the quality of parliamentary debate was being jeopardised, with MPs constantly on the blower.

Will we shortly see signal deflectors in the UK? Over Buckingham Palace perhaps? Vodafone does not think so. "The Italians do love to chat,'' said a spokeswoman. "The British are more sensible.''

The fall from the Labour front bench of Martin O'Neill does not necessarily herald a quieter time for the former energy spokesman. Mr O' Neill is tipped as the next chairman of the Trade and Industry Select Committee when Richard Caborn steps down. Mr Caborn's stint at the committee is ending because he has been promoted to the front-bench team.

With the investigation into nuclear privatisation just beginning, Mr O'Neill will be in for a baptism of fire.

The long trek from Teddington to central London (two hours if you are lucky) has finally proved too much for Greg Dyke, chief executive of Pearson Television, who has now privately declared the old Thames TV studios to be no longer suitable as a corporate headquarters.

The man who gave the country Roland Rat is looking for a temporary London base so that he may enjoy better access to his City and Soho contacts. Longer term the plan is to sell the Thames TV studio and move the whole operation closer to the action.

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