Parker Knoll tries a soft option for couch potatoes

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The Independent Online
Your grandparents may very well have a Parker Knoll recliner - the comfy chair with a footrest that swings upwards when you lean back.

Now, if you have any couch potato tendencies at all, it could be your turn. Parker Knoll's new young, thrusting chief executive, James Moore, 36, has been brought in specifically to re-upholster the family firm.

The most exciting new project on the blocks for the furniture and fabric company is a new reclining chair for TV watchers, with a holder for drinks on one arm and for the video remote on the other. Customers will be able to slump stupefied in front of the box for even longer periods. (I've already got my order in.)

Parker Knoll already has one new product for launch this summer, the "Cab-i-net". Designed for people who work at home, it looks like an ordinary wooden cabinet on the outside, but when you open up the front a desk, shelves and drawers emerge to produce the perfect work station. A snip at pounds 1,000.

Now, what's on TV tonight?

Achtung! Feuer! A fire on the roof of the Bundesbank building in Frankfurt yesterday caused "some material damage but no casualties," firemen said.

Workmen were using bitumen to re-cover bits of the Bundesbank's roof, and a "technical defect" in the bitumen cauldron sent plumes of black smoke wafting across the Frankfurt skyline.

No doubt neighbouring bankers wondered whether this was some equivalent to Papal white smoke. The financial markets are after all on tenterhooks. The Bundesbank is due to hold a crunch meeting tomorrow to decide whether to lower interest rates or not.

Firemen soon put the fire out, says a spokesman, and Bundesbank president Hans Tietmeyer was not disturbed in his office. In fact no staff were evacuated at all. Not Gotterdammerung quite yet, then.

Anything Deutsche Morgan Grenfell can do, UBS can do too. Poaching people in New York, that is. Barings has just settled a legal spat with Deutsche for luring over 50 emerging markets specialists away. Undeterred, UBS has hired seven people from Chase Manhattan and JP Morgan to strengthen its emerging markets fixed-income business.

The additions come on the heels of UBS's decision last week to hire Daniel Canel, formerly co-head of emerging markets at Chase Manhattan, as head of its North American and European emerging market debt business. His deputy Gabriel Politzer also came over.

It seems that if you work in emerging markets at the moment you can virtually name your price.

The Swiss gnomes say their move is part of an effort to hire a total of 60 emerging markets officials worldwide, with completion of the activity hopefully within a fortnight.

These include between 40 and 45 in the US and Europe. The firm now has 28 people based in the US and Europe who focus on emerging markets.

UBS snatched four people from JP Morgan and three from Chase Manhattan.

So, in emerging markets? Underpaid? Get your cv into UBS soonest.

Forget the Leeds Permanent Building Society, welcome the Leeds & Holbeck. The former is in the process of being subsumed into the Halifax, which itself is converting into a bank. The latter is a tiddler, just under 80 branches against the Leeds Permanent's 450-odd. But now the larger mutuals are converting to plcs, the smaller are feeling heady with importance.

Leeds Junior, as it might be known, has just hired its first publicity officer, Deborah Anderson, to mark the fact that it will soon be in the top 10 societies by size, as against a measly 17th two years ago. It'll be fountains in the head office forecourt next.