Guinness still nurses a pounds 9m hangover from that bid battle

People & Business

Thomas Ward, the American lawyer who advised Ernest Saunders during Guinness's controversial bid for Distillers, owes Guinness pounds 9m.

Let me explain. Some readers may recall that in the dim and distant 1980s Mr Ward was paid the sum of pounds 5.2m by Guinness for "valuable assistance" in the Distillers bid. Some pounds 3m of this found its way into Mr Saunders' numbered account with Union Bank of Switzerland.

Because the payment was kept secret, the civil courts deemed it illegal and ordered Mr Ward to pay the pounds 5.2m back to Guinness. He repaid some of it, but the rest of the sum outstanding, plus accumulated interest, now comes to pounds 9m.

Guinness has given up hope of getting the money, I hear, since Mr Ward resides in the US, and there are no signs of him returning.

Corporate hospitality can go horribly wrong so easily - one thinks of sponsored cricket washed out by the rain - so it's nice to record an unexpected success.

Reuters is sponsoring 13 sporting luncheons this autumn to celebrate the recent British Lions tour of South Africa.

Now, when this beanfeast for a total of 7,500 people was planned earlier in the year, the accepted wisdom in this country as well as in South Africa was that the Lions would be lucky to escape alive against the mighty Springboks, let alone win any matches. The rugby world champions confidently predicted a whitewash against the spindly-legged northern hemisphere weeds.

Now that the Lions have won the Test series in such a spectacular fashion, Reuters has found itself sitting on an PR goldmine. A number of the luncheons, which start in September, are already sold out, with the rest going like hot cakes, I hear.

The idea is for punters to rub shoulders with past Lions such as Gavin Hastings, Willie John McBride and Phil Bennett, not to mention this year's captain Martin Johnson, at a series of bashes in Cardiff, London and other cities.

Diners will also get a chance to select their own Lions team, with their votes going to form a final Reuters Dream Lions team.

Reuters may find some willing ticket buyers at the City Law firm Linklaters & Paines, where the senior partners all seem to have cauliflower ears and a whiff of liniment.

James Wyness, who retired as senior partner last April, is currently the president of Saracens, the north London club, and a former player for another leading club. Linklaters' current managing partner, a tall Ulsterman called Terence Kyle, used to turn out for London Irish, while head of international finance Stephen Edlmann once played for Will Carling's club, Harlequins.

So be warned. If you decide to litigate against Linklaters, remember your gum shield.

As the Private Finance Panel Executive winds down and transfers its workload to the new Treasury-based PFI taskforce, panel member Robin Hutchings has joined accountants Arthur Andersen as their chief PFI expert.

Mr Hutchings, 35, trained originally as a chartered engineer rather than as an accountant, but he says civil engineering skills come in handy as most PFI projects involve physical assets. His career includes spells at Yorkshire Water and BP. It was during his MBA at Cranfield that he was approached to join the panel.

So will PFI overcome its teething problems? "As long as people have the right expectations. I think PFI is doing all it could at the moment." Very diplomatic.

Fancy winning a Jeroboam of champagne? Denton Hall is looking for the best name for the proposed new "Super-SIB" regulator.

Lest any disgruntled financial executives come up with anything rude, Denton Hall warns that it shall "be entitled to publish entries, the name and the firm of the winner," subject to their prior permission, of course. Entries should be sent to Rosali Pretorious in Denton Hall's Financial Markets Group, to arrive no later than 4 August.

You have to be careful with new names. When the PIA was launched it drew a lot of jokes about "Pakistan International Airways". Also "pia" means "teardrop" in some parts of Scandinavia, I'm told.

Colleagues are beginning to worry about Keith Gilchrist, chief executive of the packaging company Field Group, I hear. Over the last couple of weeks Mr Gilchrist has collected the award for Best Smaller Company Investor Relations at the Investor Relations Society dinner, and Best PLC at the Packaging Industry Awards.

Apparently Mr Gilchrist is getting a little bit too used to the celebrity routine of leaping on stage and thanking everyone for this wonderful award etc. After all, "he isn't George Clooney", remarks one co-worker.

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