The City Diary: Eating their words

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The Independent Online

I'll begin with the first in what may become a long-running series – "Recall My Bluff?" – in which I'll rip off the classic game show and present lines from City spinners pretending Libya was a decent place to invest.

First up, here's a 2007 press release to promote the Libyan Economic Development Board, penned by Bell Pottinger, the PR firm created by Lady Thatcher's favourite mouthpiece, Lord Bell. In that one the Colonel's boy, Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, kicked off proceedings with details of how the LEDB would "increase opportunity and prosperity for the people of Libya". Then Dr Omran Bukhres, the executive director of Libya's National Economic Strategy, offered up: "We want to encourage Libyans to play an active part in the reform agenda." Sadly, the release does not record Frank Muir's contribution. Still, I think I'll plump for that one.

Col Mustard's in the tunnel

On that same theme, I'm reminded that the historic Metropole Hotel in Northumberland Avenue was sold three years ago to a consortium that included the Libyan government. Intriguingly, the building was twice requisitioned by the Ministry of Defence and, as a consequence, there is rumoured to be at least one tunnel leading to Whitehall. Might the Colonel hide out in that?

My heart belongs to Daddy

And now to last week's recommendations by the former trade minister, Lord Davies of Abersoch, who reckons that FTSE100 companies should aim for their boards to be 25 per cent female by 2015. That gives every businesswoman four years to concoct a plausible excuse as to why they shouldn't be press-ganged on to the Bunzl board – while for the 18 blue-chip companies who still model their director recruitment on the admission policy at White's, here's a compelling excuse.

Last week also saw the unveiling of nominations for this year's Veuve Clicquot Business Woman of the Year award. Veuve Clicquot, of course, has a fine tradition of women execs but its parent, luxury goods giant LVMH, boasts a 16-strong board which contains, er, only one full-time female executive. And how did Delphine Arnault get her gig? Obviously via an independent process that included no input from the chairman, her pa, Bernard.

Uppity women take note

Meanwhile, visitors to LVMH's website are greeted by a glossy ad featuring Sean Connery, which is slightly unfortunate. The actor seems doomed to be forever associated with that line about its being acceptable to slap women (sometimes).

The costs of moving office

Here's Allen & Overy, the Magic Circle law firm run by David Morley, explaining why it's moving its back-office to Belfast.

"This change to the way we want our services to be structured and provided will ensure Allen & Overy can deliver the efficiencies and cost effectiveness of a global business of its size. It will also meet client demand for alternative resourcing models, without compromising service quality."

So absolutely nothing to do with a £2.5m grant, which has subsequently emerged.

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