Herd of dinosaurs ready to pounce on Bank

People & Business
Just as Steven Spielberg's latest dinosaur flick is about to hit British cinema screens, a prehistoric group of economists has formed a club to celebrate the values of a bygone era.

A herd of Thatcherite economists has launched a "shadow" UK monetary policy committee to keep an eye on the Bank of England. They held their first meeting last night and intend to emerge from the undergrowth, Tyrannosaurus- like, to tear limb from limb any weedy lefties who attempt to debauch the currency.

All the old names are there: two former wise men, Professor Patrick Minford of Liverpool University and Tim Congdon of Lombard Street Research, as well as Alan Walters, Thatch's old eminence grise, now of AIG Trading Group.

Peter Spencer, chairman of the herd and professor of financial economics at Birkbeck University, says: "We felt that, particularly in view of the Bank of England's gaining independence, it was very important that there should be a debate."

Other dinosaurs include Gordon Pepper, professor at City University business school, David Smith of Williams de Broe and Peter Warburton of Flemings.

The herd will operate under the protection of the Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA), and will print minutes within a week of each quarterly meeting and publish them before the Bank of England's quarterly assessment of the economy. Stand by for some blood-letting.

Stephen Morgan, chairman of Redrow, the housebuilders, recently sold 54 million shares in the company at 158p each, realising about pounds 85m in the process. This cut Mr Morgan's stake in the company from nearly 60 per cent to 35 per cent, and I hear he spent a large chunk of the proceeds on building a new golf course near Wrexham.

This isn't surprising, since Redrow has done well out of developing St Davids Park Hotel and Golf Club, near the company's base in Wales. This development included a private housing estate, a championship-sized swimming pool, gym and sauna, and the golf course is now home to the Welsh PGA.

BAT is moving its head office from the West End of London to the City; it's moving from Windsor House, near Scotland Yard in St James's Park, to a plush new edifice called Globe House above Temple tube.

When the building is completed in the second quarter of next year, roughly 900 staff will transfer there, the majority from Woking and Staines.

Michael Prideaux, a spokesman for BAT, says: "You can't have an international tobacco company operating out of Staines, though I'm sure it's a very nice place."

Mr Prideaux says BAT subsidiary Brown & Williamson's tobacco plant in Macon, Georgia, frisks workers entering the building for rogue non-BAT brands. They confiscate them and replace them with BAT brands such as Lucky Strike and Benson & Hedges. Strange but true.

Mr Prideaux adds that he personally prefers Monte Cristo cigars to cigarettes.

Incidentally, visitors to the current BAT head office are confronted with a mountain of fags, a gigantic glass ashtray and a lighter in the reception area. It fairly makes you wheeze just to look at them.

David Thompson, managing director of Wolverhampton and Dudley Breweries, was born in the brewery, I hear. There was a mini-hospital with a delivery room inside the main Wolverhampton brewery, says Mr Thompson, a scion of the Midlands beerage dynasty.

More recently Mr Thompson wanted to convert the premises in Wolverhampton into an office so he could work where he was born. But the proposal was deemed too expensive and was dropped. Now the Thompson birthplace is a kegging hall. How many other brewers can say the same?

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