The City Diary: Sailing by: Ellison makes his own rules for America's Cup
Slackbelly exposes The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of The Square Mile
Sunday 28 March 2010
The America's Cup – the world's oldest sporting trophy and a competition in which only multibillionaires can consider competing – is in the hands of thrice-divorced software tycoon Larry Ellison.
His team, BMW Oracle Racing, gets to set the rules and venue of the next contest, and while Ellison is on record as stating he's "considering a lot of options", the rumour among the ultra-rich sailing set is that Larry is thinking about introducing a new format.
That might include a "challenger" series in Valencia – the venue of the previous two contests and a spot that would allow the sport to tap the crucial European corporate sponsorship market in sailing – with the winner then meeting Ellison's crew in California for the trophy.
Cup aficionados also wonder if Ellison might introduce a US race-off so he can pick the best of his two boats, while the challenger will be stuck with their original model.
Ground control to BA chairman: Walsh needs you
Is there a bit of (extra) turbulence in the British Airways boardroom? As chief exec Willie Walsh does battle in the airline's latest industrial spat, I understand he's completely underwhelmed by the support from chairman Martin Broughton.
A quick look at BA's public statements during the dispute seems to back up that view, and shows Broughton. leaving the PR campaign almost entirely to the combative Walsh. A BA spokesman argues that the chief exec has the board's full backing, pointing to the brief statement the chairman made to the Financial Times last week.
Is the chairman keeping his head down and waiting to collect his gong? "That's a very interesting view," smoothes the spokesman, before cruising off to the cockpit to see if the chairman might be tempted to co-pilot the campaign. "Martin Broughton spent last Saturday with staff and customers at Gatwick, and Sunday and Monday with staff and customers at Heathrow," she says. "This weekend he plans to return to the airport in a similar vein."
Walsh must be thrilled.
Carluccio's is on the menu again for Caring's top dollars
Richard Caring, the entrepreneur who made his money importing Sir Philip Green's underpants and who now pays top dollar for trophy assets such as London restaurant Le Caprice, is (again) being touted as a possible bidder for Italian eaterie-cum-deli chain Carluccio's. This rumour has re-emerged just as a report by Seymour Pierce leisure expert Hugh-Guy Lorriman argues that the food chain is overvalued compared with less glamorous rivals. So that confirms it. Expect Caring's Carluccio's bid very soon.
Here's an easy cut, Darling – check out civil service job ads
With Chancellor Alistair Darling resisting the temptation to reveal details of where the UK's inevitable spending cuts might come, I commend the civil service recruitment website to his successor.
It's currently running a historically weighty 175 job ads, including roles for outreach workers at the Health & Safety Executive, spatial analysts at Historic Scotland and a remote sensing specialist at Natural England – while the Scottish government is seeking a "determinations manager for the protection of vulnerable groups". Not civil servants, presumably.
Odds lengthen on a decent price for Tote
The Treasury is again trying to get shot of the state bookmaker, the Tote, after four refusals since 2001. It's all part of a plan to sell off state assets to raise £16bn by 2013/14, but economists reckon the sale price will plug Britain's £163bn deficit in 2011 only "for 10 hours". If that, I'd say. The £200m (and falling) that the Tote is now said to be worth may prove a long shot. A large part of the bookie's revenue comes from on-course Tote booths or its international rights, all of which are, in effect, under control of the racecourses. Might they set up a rival service if they aren't offered a decent share of the winnings?
Website wipes slate clean for Sir Fred
Sir Fred Goodwin the former Royal Bank of Scotland boss, is back in work as an adviser to architect group RMJM. His biography on the company's website states: "Initially qualified as a chartered accountant, Fred has many years experience of building global businesses and expanding into international markets".
Curiously, there's no mention of RBS. Space constraints, I expect.
Race hots up for insider-trading gong
What bad luck for Malcolm Calvert the former Cazenove partner who was convicted of insider dealing earlier this month. Just when he looked a shoo-in to triumph in the Spivies, SlackBelly's prestigious insider-trading awards, up crops a whole host of potential rivals as the Financial Services Authority swoops to make seven more arrests (and counting).
Meanwhile, I note that Martyn Dodgson, managing director of corporate broking at Deutsche Bank and one of the FSA seven, also worked for Cazenove until 2001. "I had no idea," blocks a Caz spokesman, before skipping off to check through the records. She never returns.
A few high-profile arrests isn't quite like nailing Capone
I read that Margaret Cole, head of enforcement and crime at the FSA, is suddenly being painted as the "Eliot Ness" de nos jours, after those headline-grabbing insider-trading raids.
Lancastrian Cole, who is married but has no children, was raised in a small house with an outside lavatory – nice details which add to the narrative of a plucky champion fighting back on behalf of the abused masses.
Still, a couple of convictions and a few high-profile arrests do not yet quite equate to nailing Al Capone, particularly as the flavour-of-the-month regulator seems to have abandoned its pursuit of Malcolm Calvert's supposed Cazenove mole. FSA insiders are now down-playing the chance of any further efforts with that case.
A trader who can run
And finally: another of the FSA seven, Moore Capital's Julian Rifat, has an alternative claim to fame. As a schoolboy, he was a record-breaking decathlete and a champion in the high-jump.
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