Move quickly to enter bears in sloth contest

People & Business
London Zoo is reopening one of its favourite landmarks, Bear Mountain, this Easter, and populating it with sloth bears, a peaceable yet threatened species from Sri Lanka.

To mark the refurbishment of London's only realistic mountain range, the London Zoo is appealing to readers for nominations for "two top City bear traders of 1996, or likely candidates for 1997".

Each of the City bears would receive a free sloth adoption, worth around pounds 1,000. The City pessimists would also get a photograph and certificate and a chance to visit the sloths when they arrive. Call Charlotte Phillips on 0171-240 9900 with nominations.

When Richard Branson's trans-world balloon landed with a bump in the early hours of yesterday morning, it wasn't just the bearded entrepreneur's considerable ego which lost out.

City Index, the spread betting specialists, reckoned on Mr Branson and his pals staying aloft for 13 to 15 days, making it roughly three-quarters of the way around the world. In the event Mr Branson's thrill-packed eight hours aloft counted as one day, according to City Index.

Neil Murphy of City Index says: "It's a great disappointment. We lost about pounds 800. There were some big sellers but luckily some buyers saved our bacon. About 40 people placed bets."

Mr Murphy was going to donate all profits from the bets to Mr Branson's nominated charity and, if the Virgin man had completed the trip, he would have doubled that amount.

It was not to be. But Mr Hughes is hopeful. "If Mr Branson's balloon is in good working order, and if the American and Swiss balloon attempts fail, then he may have another go in two weeks' time. We would support him."

Intriguingly, Mr Hughes says City Index thought about taking bets on Kevin Keegan's survival at Newcastle, but turned down the idea since they knew something was up some time ago and "so did the high-street bookies".

The Curzon Partnership, a 10-partner headhunter in London which specialises in City and IT recruitment, has just hired a singer-songwriter who specialises in Indy- rock-soul music.

Ian Hughes, 33, also has a string of engineering degrees from Cambridge and a background in management consultancy, but rocking the house is his first love.

"I've played in bands since I was a teenager and I'm never going to give it up," Mr Hughes tells me.

So why go into headhunting? "It is an exciting new challenge for me," said Mr Hughes. Maybe. If anyone wants to find out whether Mr Hughes can convincingly "rock out", he hopes to get a gig at the Turk's Head in Twickenham. Party on, dudes.

Full marks for the funniest press release I've seen this year: "Many UK companies are not convinced of the real benefits of floormats, according to a recent research report commissioned by leading Dust Control Mat manufacturer WOM International."

You said it. Neville de Sousa, WOM's group sales director, declares: "The number of big and small customers not currently using mats is quite staggering - the one message that we need to deliver loud and clear is that everyone needs them." Consider the message delivered, Neville. And mind your feet.

One of my colleagues was lunching with Zeneca's chief executive, Sir David Barnes, and other company bigwigs yesterday, and was interested to find that these lunches are held in a bijou flat within Zeneca's London head office.

It transpires that Zeneca has four such mini-flats within the head office. When it converted the building two years ago, Westminster Council directed that it would have to have a mix of residential as well as business uses.

Not that you could buy a flat inside Zeneca. They're all used for company entertaining. I'm not sure that was what Westminster Council had in mind.

I'm happy to mention that it was the freelance illustrator, Daniel Taylor of Fulham, who drew the cartoon of Jimmy Herbert, Britain's oldest full-time stockbroker, that we used yesterday.