Slackbelly: Cull of One Alfred Place members
The City Snitch: The Good, The Bad and the ugly of the Square Mile
Sunday 07 February 2010
I hear of a spot of trouble at One Alfred Place, the Fitzrovia private members' club whose investors include Nick Mason of rock group Pink Floyd, Mike Rutherford of Genesis and Peter Wheeler, a former Goldman Sachs Partner.
Founder Rob Shreeve has been replaced as chief exec (although he remains on the board) while chairman Robert Devereux – a founding investor of Soho House – has also stepped down to concentrate on his international business interests. Members mutter that investors, particularly Mason, had lost patience with how the business was developing and the upshot is that Tony Smith, the manager of Genesis, has been installed as chairman, while Sharon Brittan – with whom Mason created the serviced office group Brittania Row – is the new chief exec. She's wasting no time in making changes to the business, including axing club members she doesn't rate.
"I think the club is a fantastic concept but the delivery needed some amendments," explains the bouncy Brittan when I call. "But you've got to be brave and bold, luv. And you've got to make sure that if they are not the right people then they aren't there." Quite so.
A chip off the maternal block
On the subject of the Brittan family, Sharon's son, Toby, 16, has dropped out of his A-levels to concentrate on a business career. Mum is not best pleased with this (despite being pretty successful herself without qualifications) but young Toby does seem to have a flair for commerce. He has just set up a Facebook page called "Can this Onion Ring get more fans than Justin Bieber?" a reference to some Canadian teenybopper. Toby is making a pretty good stab at the project too. In four days the onion ring has collected 1.2 million fans, compared to Jason's 1.6 million – a success that has led to offers from companies wanting to advertise on his site. Clever clogs.
Football's in his blood
I hear that Eddie Charlton, the respected director of HSBC Private Bank, has departed. This looks like a nicely timed run, as after a 30-year banking career, Charlton is being tipped as the next chairman of the Football League. That would be a neat solution, as the banker is a rare City candidate to have played football for a team that once lifted the FA Cup. It was Eton.
Moss stays silent on affairs, this time
For reasons best known to himself and his advisers, Aviva boss Andrew Moss was happy to talk publicly last autumn about his affair with Deirdre Galvin – who was married to his colleague Andrew Moffat. So in the same spirit of frankness, I wonder if the insurance boss will share his view on the furore surrounding England's former captain, John Terry?
"Er, er, you wouldn't expect me to comment on that would you?" stutters Moss's spokesman. "Did you see our Q4 announcement this week?"
Nice try, son, but stick to the question? "It would be pretty spurious for you to write about that," he says, before attempting a hopeful: "Most people think it is pretty old news." But not all, old boy.
Hands fights for right to stay
Shed a tear for poor Guy Hands, the boss of private equity group Terra Firma. In order to avoid paying UK taxes, he has had to leave his wife and two school-age children during term time. While his family lives in Kent, the tax exile has been trapped on Guernsey since last April. "I have not set foot in the UK since I left, and have no intention of doing so until I've been out of the country for at least three years," he told a US District Court.
Worse, he's had to give up "numerous invitations to dinners, to speak at conferences, to accept industry awards and to make presentatons." Yet all these personal sacrifices may be for nought if Hands is forced to return to the UK to testify in a case he brought against Citigroup. When will the pain end?
Crozier covers up
A setback for the SlackBelli calendar – which you'll recall is a rip-off of something done far more professionally by a tyre company and features topless shots of Britain's flabbiest businessmen. Miss February was scheduled to be incoming ITV boss, Adam Crozier (above), but the solitary snap of him parading in his bathers has been mysteriously withdrawn from public view. Will his legion of fans cope?
Has Paddy Power reverted to form?
Internet bookmaker Bodog has posted its odds for tonight's Super Bowl between New Orleans, led by quarterback Drew Brees (below), and Indianapolis. Among them are a few novelty markets – joke bets which are usually specific to each bookie.
Its list of odds on who will be thanked first in the Most Valuable Player's speech reads: God (2.00), Teammates (2.37), Family (7.00) and Coach (13.00). Astonishingly, rival Paddy Power has an almost identical list: God (1.91), Teammates (2.25), Family (7.00), Coaches (13.00). Coincidence? "They probably copied us," snaps a Paddy Power spokesman, before barking: "Anyway, I'm far too busy dealing with John Terry." Sadly for Paddy, the form book is against it. When the Irish bookie made its first forays into internet gambling, it was repeatedly caught offering odds identical to rival Blue Square (even when they contained deliberate mistakes). That led to it getting the nickname: Green Square.
Slackbelly gets his man
Progress in my pursuit of Meyrick Cox, a managing director of Rothschild bank. You'll recall that he was quoted sticking up for the British Virgin Island-registered investment group Qadbak – which he assured us was a "wholly reputable organisation". This seemed a trifle cavalier, particularly when it emerged that the group had no real money. Attempts to contact Cox have failed – until now. "I'm not going to express a view," he sniffs when I finally track him down.
Point of a prince Party eases pain of recession
Who said we live in austerity Britain? Last night saw the 30th birthday party of glamorous socialite Goga Ashkenazi, who has shot from being a complete unknown to boasting that she has "a prince on one arm and a billionaire on the other". That refers to her close friendships with Prince Andrew and the son-in-law of the Kazakh premier, Nursultan Nazarbayev, oil magnate Timur Kulibayev, with whom she is believed to have had a child.
The guest list for the Tyringham Hall, Buckinghamshire, soirée included the Duke of York, Colonel Gaddafi's socialite sons, Moutassim and Saif, Sir Philip Green, Lord Mandelson and Lakshmi Mittal. Meanwhile, the dress code stated "black tie and truly fabulous" as tycoons were told that they could drop off their private jets at, er, Luton Airport. Camparis all round!
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