Is there life after a hedge fund fortune?

CITY DIARY

The sudden retirement of Michael Steinhardt, the hugely wealthy hedge fund manager, hasn't exactly shaken Wall Street to its foundations. The portly 54-year-old financier has been threatening to "do something important with his life'' for the last 15 years. The question on the lips of Manhattan's elite is whether he can do it without making a mess of it.

While Mr Steinhardt finds little difficulty in making lorry-loads of money (investors in the world's third-largest hedge fund have seen a return of 24.3 per cent a year over the last 28 years), he has struggled with his other pursuits.

He last retired 17 years ago, travelling to Israel to cultivate his spiritual life. There he began collecting antique synagogue donation boxes and returned to the US with more than 100 of the icons. Tragically, many of them proved to be fake.

Attempts to provide a bird sanctuary on his estate for the American steamer duck were equally unsuccessful. He built the lake. He built the island. But the ducks showed not the slightest interest in landing there.

The jury is still out on his ability to cultivate flowers. However, Brooklyn botanists remain eternally grateful for the $3m he donated to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens.

Whatever he decides to do, New York is betting he will be back. Soros could do worse than put the Quantum Fund into the action.

The money continues to roll in at Baring Brothers (they will not countenance the ING prefix). The corporate finance arm will earn pounds 6m from its work on the Lloyds Bank/TSB merger. Together with the fees from the Glaxo/Wellcome deal, this puts it up at the top of the mergers and acquisitions league.

Will any of this money go to bondholders still owed pounds 100m? "Er, probably not,'' mumbles an M&A man.

The fragile ceasefire in Birmingham is over. The battle between private client stockbrokers for this frontier territory erupted again this week when the office of BWD Rensburg was raided by Wlliams de Broe. There were no survivors. This is the second de Broe offensive in as many months. It also captured Bikuben in Wolverhampton.

The Rensburg defections appear to have been sparked by the sudden departure of top dog Roger Mills. There followed an "either he stays or we go'' ultimatum from the troops. He didn't and neither did they.

But the bloodshed does not stop there. Brown Shipley has defected to Harris Allday and Greig Middleton is looking to repair an 11-man hole following a defection to Brewin Dolphin. Oh, and Henderson Crosthwaite is looking to start up.

Richard Holloway, linguist, cricketer and erstwhile mouthpiece of the recently swallowed SG Warburg, has found a home with the Maitland Consultancy. But the news has not being greeted warmly at Lowe Bell, the agency that took over the PR for the enlarged SBC-Warburg. "It's a bit like the Prince of Wales becoming a warden in the Royal parks,'' sniffs one.

Some friction possibly? Allies point out that Angus Maitland's firm has some very good clients, including Mercury Asset Management, the SBC Warburg fund management arm.

Yesterday's conflagration at the headquarters of Rupert Murdoch's Australian newspaper operations - coming so shortly after dire warnings on the rising cost of newsprint - is nothing more than a coincidence, we can report. Fire officials said there were no suspicious circumstances.

The great man watched the blaze from the safety of a car park, having stayed long enough "to make sure the staff were OK.''

Don't be surprised if the Labour Party suddenly pops up on the share register of National Westminster Bank. Douglas Hurd starts his new job as deputy chairman of NatWest Markets on Monday and his service contract will be available for inspection at the bank's headquarters.

One of the more interesting nuggets to be unearthed will be the salary paid to the former Foreign Secretary. Unhappily, the much-sought-after document will only be available to shareholders.

As yet no information is available on Mr Hurd's new office, other than that it will be on the prestigious ninth floor. Details on the colour of the carpets, type of desk and that sort of thing are not being divulged. Mr Hurd took his non-executive seat on bank's main board on Wednesday.

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