NatWest in a spin as Lord Alexander losses favourite PR

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It's all change at NatWest. Lord Alexander, the chairman, is losing his favourite press handler, Ed Townsend, and gaining a new finance director, Richard Delbridge, formerly of HSBC.

Ed was a journalist at the Times before becoming a press spokesman at BAA. He joined NatWest six years ago, and is now moving to City spin doctors Luther Pendragon, who advise companies like Cable & Wireless and United Utilities.

George Pitcher, joint managing director of Luther and himself an ex-scribbler, recently recruited another ex-Times man, Melvyn Marckus. Mr Pitcher says: "Edward's combination of senior media experience on both sides of the wire is absolutely in keeping with our culture and our offer to the market.

"He is both a wise counsel and a gritty operator - in short, he is very 'Lutheran' and we are very lucky to have won him."

Ed himself insists that "I'm only Lutheran in the non-religious sense".

The top PR slot at NatWest is still vacant since Simon Lewis defected to British Gas Energy. Headhunters Odgers are still looking, offering a package of around pounds 120,000, according to the wine bar cognescenti, so get your CV in.

Richard Delbridge comes on board as finance director after retiring from the same post at HSBC last November.

An HSBC source says: "Mr Delbridge took Midland all the way through the acquisition by HSBC and the merging of the two balance sheets. He was very tired at the end of it and wanted a break."

Mr Delbridge was not part of the dour Scottish clan that runs HSBC, and will no doubt feel more at home at cricket-mad NatWest.

The administrator of Polly Peck has won control of Asil Nadir's pounds 2.6m bail money, which the Cypriot businessman forfeited when he fled from British justice.

An Old Bailey judge yesterday awarded the money to Polly Peck's creditors instead of the British taxpayer, the usual recipient of forfeited bail money. Chris Morris of Touche Ross, the administrator of the Polly Peck empire which crashed four years ago, is jubilant.

When Nadir was arrested by the Serious Fraud Office and charged with fraud involving pounds 30m, his bail was paid for by Impex Bank, a Turkish-Cypriot bank.

Creditors of Polly Peck, however, are owed over pounds 1.8bn, and Mr Morris has done well to recover around pounds 60m of it. The final payout, says Mr Morris, should be at least 2.4p in the pound.

Returning to the giddy world of City spin doctors, Merrill Lynch is seeking to recruit a new head of PR for a rumoured pounds 250,000 a year. Quite a lot of dosh for saying "no comment - you'll have to speak to New York".

Richard Spiegelberg, the present incumbent (another ex-Times journalist - they seem to get everywhere), is moving to the international private banking side.

Pity poor Marcus Will, a former colleague of Mr Spiegelberg's, who moved to become spokesman for Deutsche Morgan Grenfell a fortnight ago - just in time for the unit trust debacle. "He must have had quite a first week," says Mr Spiegelberg.

Barings Asset Management has decided that, a year after the Leeson disaster and its passage into ING's ownership, it needs a complete strategic review. But instead of hiring Arthur Andersen or Bain, BAM has hired Richard Wohanka from Paribas Asset Managment to do the whole thing himself.

Jonathan Taylor, director of BAM, explains: "Having recovered from the 1995 crisis we could have gone to outside consultants, which would have been a very expensive exercise.

"We decided that Paribas has many similarities to us - less than half earnings come from the UK, it's very international, and Mr Wohanka has been heavily involved in developing the business."

Eddie George, Governor of the Bank of England, laid the foundation stone for the European head office of Daiwa Securities in the City yesterday, and made a typically bullish speech about London's world standing.

Mr George said he had been in the City for 35 years and it was always worried about its standing: "The more the City worries, the less I do."

He also said Daiwa was to be considered not as a visitor but "a home team, very much in the Premier League".

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