Slackberry: Note to Auntie - Cast Paul O'Grady as Fred the Shred...please
The City Snitch: The good, the bad and the ugly of The Square Mile
Sunday 31 January 2010
Just when things were looking up for Sir Fred Goodwin, a setback.
I hear that the BBC has quietly started working on a docudrama on the downfall of Royal Bank of Scotland, which is planned for broadcast in October.
The series, which will compete with another programme which Bloomberg is believed to be hatching, is at an early stage, but my choice for the main acting roles would be for camp comic Paul O'Grady as a lookalike Sir Fred, and former Drop the Dead Donkey star Neil Pearson as Merrill Lynch banker Matthew Greenburgh.
Surprisingly, it is perhaps Greenburgh – said to have been a big influence in the deal frenzy that led to RBS's demise – who should be most concerned by the forthcoming piece. The BBC's researchers are already looking for rival bankers to dish the dirt on the diminutive Maserati driver, a man described by some City insiders as "not universally popular" and known to his detractors as Elf.
Extrabet's future – is it worth a punt?
What is going on at Extrabet – the shrinking sports arm of spread-betting giant IG Group?
I learn that Nick Butchart, the division's head of operations, has left the company to join rival Bet365 – a defection that follows the October departure of Stuart Lane, the sports bookie's respected former chief.
These headaches come on top of punters routinely complaining about a new Extrabet policy to limit stake sizes, while sports revenues fell by 30 per cent in the six months to 30 November.
Betting industry gossips muse that IG has informally had its sports division up for sale for months, although there's no obvious buyer, so the theory now goes that IG may just leave the whole business to wither away.
Still, Extrabet employees seem confident of their future prospects, so can they give a spread on the number of months they will remain part of IG? "That's more than my job's worth," says Extrabet managing director Arman Tahmassebi. "At the moment, there is no talk of a sale."
HSBC boss goes East; whither Bannister?
HSBC chief exec Michael Geoghegan has decamped to Hong Kong – leaving UK staffers wondering if they too should desert London. Meanwhile, the bank has been rowing back from sections of insurance, after putting its motor insurance arm into run-off and selling its insurance broking business to Marsh & McLennan. So what next for Clive Bannister, son of the original four-minute miler Sir Roger and HSBC's group managing director of insurance, who has previously run both the investment and private banking arms? Might he consider, um, a runner?
Trump's kind words in a time of crisis
It seems that the improbably coiffed Donald Trump has got another bee in his Barnet. The property tycoon believes that last year's murder conviction of Amanda Knox in Perugia is a travesty, and grandly states: "Donald Trump will not be going to Italy, and in fact will be boycotting Italy, as long as Amanda Knox is sitting in jail."
These thoughts represent yet another occasion when The Donald's selfless words have soothed those stricken by personal crisis.
After the death last year of John Travolta's teenage son, Jett, the tycoon's thoughts naturally turned to the time he tried to bed Travolta's wife – the boy's mother. "I met Kelly Preston at a club and worked like hell to try to pick her up," he blogged, four days after the boy's death. "In any event, my track record on this subject has always been outstanding, but Kelly wouldn't give me the time of day. She was very nice, very elegant, but I didn't have a chance with her, and that was that."
Cold shoulders for Kirsh
A run of bad luck for South African tycoon Nathan Kirsh. Earlier this month, the veteran investor's swoop for Minerva ended with him being rebuffed by the property group's shareholders. And now I notice that Magal Security Systems, where Kirsh is a director, is being snubbed by Danish investors, who say they are divesting from the company because it is a supplier of electronic fences for a wall dividing Israelis and Palestinians.
All of which should make excellent material for the forthcoming documentary on Kirsh's career. And who commissioned this oeuvre? One Nathan Kirsh.
It's Crown Prince Haakon...and on...
Over at Davos, SlackBelly's thrusting reporter, Irene Hell, bags herself an exclusive interview with Crown Prince Haakon of Norway. I have been chairing the Young Global Leaders Global Redesign Initiative Task Force," he explains seamlessly, before adding: "That's a mouthful." You can say that again, Your Highness.
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