Maher moves from retail into manufacturing

CITY DIARY

Word drifts in that Terry Maher, the former chairman of the Pentos group, is to write a novel. The former leading light of the Dillons and Rymans group says he is working on a book "with a City background", no less. He will say no more for fear of whipping readers up into a frenzy of anticipation. "I've got an outline and written the first chapter," chirps the budding novelist. "But I don't want a contract with a publisher yet. I want to work a bit on it first without the pressure of a deadline."

Mr Maher scoffs at suggestions that he is only copying his former rival, Tim Waterstone, who published his first novel, Lilley and Chase, a couple of years back. This will be Mr Maher's second dash into print. His first, Against My Better Judgement, was an autobiographical account of his last days at Pentos. Even before the end of the Net Book Agreement it ended up being sold at the knock-down price of pounds 11.

Staff on the Docklands Light Railway have retained a sense of humour even after the shock of last Friday's bomb blast. An announcement on one rush-hour train yesterday ran: "Please take all your personal possessions with you on leaving the train. We are trying to run a normal service today and don't want it disrupted by a pack of sandwiches."

Graham Wallace, the laid-back Canadian who headed TSB's public relations, may be looking for pastures new. Following the merger with Lloyds Bank, Mr Wallace, or Walrus, as he calls himself, will no longer be responsible for day-to-day press relations for the merged giant. "I don't know what I will be doing yet. I have no plans at the moment." One thing is clear - he will not be at Lloyds results presentations on Friday. Mr Wallace says he may go off on one of his fabled long-distance holidays but is still hoping for a role somewhere in the City. "There might be something out there for me."

British Gas is showing how difficult it is to satisfy the often-conflicting demands of customers and shareholders. It has issued gasmen with two different scripts - one for each group. The script for customers who don't own shares burbles on about maintained standards of service and safety. The one for investors shows different priorities. Given that the chairman, Richard Giordano, wants to get rid of most of the smaller shareholders, it is no surprise that the letter includes several hotlines on which shareholders will presumably be advised to sell and double quick.

More whistleblowing on shirkers after research showing that smokers work a four-day week and some train drivers only spend half the day driving trains. Salesman are the latest target. According to NHA International, a Reading-based consultancy, salesman only spend 45 minutes a day selling. The rest is spent driving to appointments and other non-productive activities such as the assiduous chatting-up of secretaries.

Workers at the Prudential's new banking subsidiary could be in for a few shocks if a rumour about new chief executive Mike Harris proves true. Mr Harris, you may remember, caused much confusion at his former charge, Mercury Communications, when he started a cultural change programme called Imagine. The programme involved loud music, all sorts of management gobbledygook about corporate bonding which led to accusations of brainwashing. In spite of the hype it proved a spectacular and costly failure. Word is, however that far from being chastened by this experience, Mr Harris has hired the same consultancy again at the Pru.

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