The City Diary

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Alchemist warns of bulls transformed into roosting chickens

Jon Moulton, the founding partner of private equity group Alchemy, was rather morose about the financial prospects of the UK when addressing a Corporate Wisdom event sponsored by executive search firm Whitehead Mann and Leeds Business School last week. Moulton and Alch-emy rose to prominence in 2000 with a bid to rescue the MG carmaker from BMW, but he is now a lot less bullish about the UK economy. He made it clear "there was more trouble on the way" and said we were moving into uncharted waters. Deals have been done, he claimed, that brought huge bonuses for City slickers who undertook these transactions with no thought or interest in the longer-term outcome. He said these fed upon themselves and only a limited number of people made very large sums of money. Maybe when the bonuses are a little less generous next time round, they will realise their chickens have come home to roost.

He might have left Big Brother but it's still watching him

Telly giant Endemol has imminent competition from a familiar face: its whizz kid Stéphane Courbit, who left to set up his own production company. The former president of Endemol France, with the ex-bosses of pay-per-view giant Canal Plus and trendy Metropole Television (M6), is building a new €240m company to rival the maker of 'Big Brother' (which he introduced to France as 'Loft Story'. The French weekly news magazine 'Le Point' reports, however, that major Endemol investor Goldman Sachs still has some unfinished business with him concerning the affair of the safes. When Courbit quit the Endemol HQ, he allegedly took the two office strongboxes with him. Pursued for their return, he eventually delivered two brand new ones to Endemol. The contents of the original safes are still missing, and Goldman Sachs investigators want them back. Courbit refuses to comment. Sounds like the start of a bad TV show. Such as Endemol specialises in ...

A taste of BlackBerry pie

Anna Venturi, well known in foodie circles for her book 'Secrets from an Italian Kitchen' and appearances on BBC's 'Saturday Kitchen', is taking on the challenging task of teaching financial hotshots how to cook. Venturi (pictured), who runs a London cookery centre with her daughter, Letizia Tufari, has hosted groups from RBS, PWC, London Business School and Deloitte. The days stirring saffron risotto in Le Creuset pots and kneading dough for homemade ravioli are a welcome break from days in the boardroom and just the thing to get the creative juices flowing. Tufari said: "People from the City always turn up looking so stressed and tired but very smart and they won't let go of their BlackBerries, but one by one they take off their jackets and ties and roll up their sleeves and put their BlackBerries in the flour. It's like watching the unmasking of the businessman. We once had a woman who was so tightly wound that she grated a whole lemon, including all the juice, when she was just supposed to grate the zest. But people do relax and the men are often better than the women because they see cooking as more of a pleasure, while women see it as a task."

Modern Jeeves eases the stress of Terminal 5

Passengers stuck at Heathrow in the chaos of Terminal 5 have proved to be rather resourceful. One businessman was considerably delayed at the airport so did not have time to find a suit for an event he was attending that night. He called up concierge service Quintessentially, which got him a suit from his favourite designer, had it tailored to fit him perfectly and delivered it to his hotel room with shirt, cufflinks and tie so that when he arrived at his destination he could change and go straight to the event. Who said travel was stressful?

Black humour in the City

Overheard in a city bar: What do you call a non-dom going to prison? A con-dom. Economists are people who are paid to be wrong about the economy. Econometricians are paid to use computers to guess wrong about the economy. The credit crunch is offering a grim reminder of Bob Hope's reflection that "A bank is a place that will lend you money if you can prove that you don't need it."

Piqued by Permira

Paul Maloney, the national secretary of the GMB union, has dismissed private equity firm Permira's first annual review as "a made-up report, full of self-belief but with no financial detail", and says he will stay on the company's case "until they do something about it". Permira countered that the review contained more information than it had ever published before.

New prince charming lays on the cheese

The magic kingdom is preparing for a new prince. Euro Disney has announced the nomination of Philippe Gas, right, to the position of president of the group, which operates Disneyland in Paris. Mr Gas, 44, is a 17-year company veteran, having worked in both Euro Disney and Walt Disney Parks Worldwide. He has stayed out of the Mickey Mouse outfits, though, beginning his career as finance controller. He said: "I'm very pleased to be coming home to Disneyland. I remember the first day I came to work here 17 years ago – such a diversity of talent, cultures and nationalities. It really is a small world after all." Anyone for cheese?

Dead for 10 years but don't tell the accountants

A sense of déjà vu came with the folding of 'The Business' in February. Could it have been because, a decade earlier, an ailing rag aimed at the business community, overseen by Andrew Neil and owned by the Barclay brothers, also called it a day? Despite huge injections of cash, 'The European' closed in 1998. But the dead horse is still being flogged. Creditors received a letter from accountants Ernst and Young last week saying: "The Committee has authorised us to draw final Administrator's fees of up to £12,500 plus VAT in dealing with the closure of the Administration."

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