The City Diary: Bleasdale's troubles

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The Independent Online

Kate Bleasdale has had a tough week.

The entrepreneur, famous for being awarded £2.2m in a 2002 sexual discrimination case, was suspended from Aim-listed Healthcare Locums on Tuesday following the discovery of an accounting black hole.

Shares in the group were also suspended, which is quite apt – as, of late, there's not been much trading on Bleasdale's house in Kingston upon Thames, which I discover has been on the market for about five years. Online property site Zoopla reckons the asking price has just been reduced by £2m to £8m – although that would still be a handy sum to assist with upcoming expenses.

For I hear that Bleasdale, who is promising to fight the company she founded, has just appointed SJ Berwin employment lawyer Nicola Kerr. Bleasdale does not return my calls while Kerr will only say (twice): "As a matter of policy, we don't comment on confidential client matters."


The curse of the award strikes again. Lawrence Ho, the son of 89-year-old billionaire casino tycoon, Stanley, popped into the Carlton Tower hotel in London last week to collect his pa's "outstanding contribution" gong at the International Gaming Awards.

"When I take this back home to my father, I will say to him, actually this is your award, but I have three of my own I won," Lawrence said magnanimously.

That gag might not have amused the old man, even if Lawrence eventually got to tell it in person. As soon as Ho fils touched back down in Macau, a massive family feud erupted over succession plans, which resulted in Stanley issuing an injunction to stop his relatives from claiming ownership of his main assets. Lawrence was named in that suit.

Pru's secret drinker

A poster at Prudential's Reading office informs employees that bottles of alcohol have been "regularly found" in the gents and asks the offenders to seek counselling (and for colleagues to grass up their thirsty pals). "Alcohol dependency is an issue we take seriously" the insurer advises, before leaving a confidential Alcoholics Anonymous number for anybody who feels the need to call. It may be that there is an alcoholic on the premises, but the simpler conclusion is that working for the Pru drives you to drink. Either that, or living in Reading.

Lounge Lazard?

Lord Mandelson, the former business secretary, once dubbed Barclays boss Bob Diamond "the unacceptable face of banking". Now that the peer has joined investment bank Lazard, I wonder if Diamond has a catchy phrase to describe Mandy? "I'm sure he wishes him every success," smoothes a spokesman.

'Playboy' of the month

Calvin Ayre, the founder of online gambling group Bodog, is the subject of a six-page profile in Playboy. He's either the magazine's biggest fan, or he's quite chuffed with the story. He's just bought 3,000 copies.