Industry's big cheeses look to make an after-dinner mint

People & Business

The former industrialist and management guru Sir John Harvey-Jones held the record for after-dinner speaking fees for some time at pounds 7,000 per 20 minute speech. Now I hear that the great troubleshooter has removed himself from the speech list and other industrialists are vying for the title. Apparently Professor Roland Smith, former chief of British Aerospace and a ubiquitous figure in UK boardrooms, is keen to claim the record. I prefer Bob Monkhouse myself.

The National Life Story Collection at the British National Library has completed a fascinating series of tape interviews with leading City figures going back to just after the First World War.

Sir John Craven, Sir Martin Jacomb, George Nissen and Lord Rothschild are just some of the 150 people interviewed for the reflections on life in the Square Mile.

The project, "City Lives," includes some resonant quotes from the likes of David Verey of Lazards. Mr Verey was called in by Barings just as the Nick Leeson disaster was being unearthed, and recalls breaking the news to the Barings bosses that rescue talks for the bank had been abandoned.

"I remember John Ashburton saying, `It's just impossible to believe that 250 years of independence have come to an end literally over a weekend because of a rogue trader in Singapore.' I was standing on the 20th floor of Barings with John and Nicholas [Baring] and there was a beautiful sunset over the western part of the City and we just looked out into this great ball of fire and the sun sinking and it was rather an emotional moment."

Another bit I liked was Charles McVeigh III of Salomons, reflecting on the inadequacy of the Bank of England's pounds 10bn war chest when it tried to stop speculators driving sterling out of the ERM three years ago. "It was nothing. It was like a tip to the hat-check girl in a bar."

Going back to Barings, Anthony McGrath, corporate finance director at its new incarnation ING Barings, has been invited to become one of the trustees of the English National Stadium Trust.

The project is to build a mega-stadium at Wembley suitable for the next century. Hessel Lindebergh, chief executive of ING Barings, welcomes the appointment: "ING sponsor the Dutch national football team and so it is more than appropriate that ING Barings should be involved in some small way in the rebuilding of a British national sports stadium."

Ruud Gullit would be proud.

The grip of Austria tightens on our utility regulators day by day. Nothing to do with an enlarged European Union this, but rather the influence of the late Austrian economist Friederich von Hayek.

Eileen Marshall, head of regulation at Ofgas and a keen follower of Hayek's free-market views, is being seconded one day a week to Offer, the electrical equivalent, where Stephen Littlechild is also a true believer.

Ms Marshall, nicknamed The Ice Maiden because of her cool approach, was the architect of the gas price review. She spent five years with Mr Littlechild before joining Clare Spottiswoode at Ofgas.

The Building Societies Association and the Council of Mortgage Lenders are finally getting divorced. It may seem odd that the same secretariat under the able Adrian Coles has been able to represent the interests of mutual building societies and the banks that have competed with them in the mortgage markets. With societies like the Halifax and Alliance & Leicester converting to banks next year the strain has become too great, says Sue Anderson, until now a spokeswoman for both the BSA and CML.

Societies want their trade association to champion the merits of mutuality against those of plcs, says Ms Anderson, and the two roles no longer mix.

She is going to the CML, while Mr Coles goes to the BSA, where he will have to hire a new press spokesperson. Michael Coogan will take over as director general of the CML next year.

They will have to stay in the same building. "The CML will have its own lockable office space," Ms Anderson insists, thus preventing any possible confusion.

And finally, Yorkshire Bank bucks the trend. All the other banks printed announcements in the newspapers yesterday that they would be raising their interest rates following the Chancellor's quarter-point rise. Yorkshire, however, stated in the FT that its "base rate is reduced from 5.75 per cent to 6.00 per cent".

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