Pembroke: Very nearly left speechless

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The Independent Online
Alan Jackson, the Australian chief executive of BTR, had a mixed day yesterday. He flew into London from the US to pick up the inaugural Quality of Management award, sponsored by Mori and Sundridge Park management college. But, pleased as Mr Jackson doubtless was to beat the likes of Marks and Spencer and Glaxo into second and third place, he was lucky to get there at all.

Despite disruption to his plans caused by the American Airlines strike, he managed to catch a flight that arrived on time, only to be kept waiting on board for nearly an hour as ground staff struggled to get the steps up to the door.

Then when he strode up to accept his award from Sir Adrian Cadbury he found his secretary had given him the wrong speech. A breathless Mr Jackson - who is not very fond of public speaking anyway - had to piece together a few words from an earlier draft.

'I might have a few words when I get back,' he spluttered over his salmon afterwards.

At lunch Mr Jackson was in much better form, regaling one and all about the benefits of being a frequent flyer. He was, he revealed, a member of the BA Premiere club, which gave him priority when booking flights, and on his last birthday Qantas sent him a copy of the New York Times from the day he was born.

This was a somewhat less extravagant gift than the reward Qantas gave him last Christmas for his regular jet-setting: a piano. The instrument was an interesting choice, considering that Mr Jackson doesn't even play. The real winners are his daughters, who do tickle the ivories. One of them sent him a note saying: 'If you make any additions to your will, remember I was the best piano player.'

With bonanza City bonuses looming and the Budget less than a week away, it seems there is a Klondike-type rush to get paid in gold bullion rather than plain old cash. City high-flyers fear that the Budget may adjust the rules that let City firms avoid the burden of National Insurance contributions by rewarding senior staff with bonuses in the form of gold or diamonds.

The broker Societe Generale Strauss Turnbull has confirmed that it will be paying some bonuses in gold again this year, but fears it might be the last time.

Aclose shave yesterday for Christopher Haskins, chairman of Northern Foods. He was lined up to discuss the group's results on Radio 4's Today programme. Waiting his turn to go on live, he had to listen to a taped interview with Allied-Lyons' Tony Hales.

'He had all the numbers at his fingertips,' said Mr Haskins. 'Profits were up such and such, earnings per share up such and such. And I suddenly thought, 'I don't even know what our numbers are'.'

Fortunately the anchorman, Brian Redhead, showed little interest in such mundane financial matters and, in typical Haskins style, the Northern Foods chairman was able to distract him with anecdotes about soaring sales of German fork lift trucks.

It seems you can do almost everything by telephone these days. Dial-a-pizza, dial-a-football result, dial-a-share-price. Now lazy chief executives who can't be bothered to sift through the morning papers to find out how they have reported their annual results can have a

Simply dial an 0891 number (48p a minute at peak rate) and have a disembodied voice summarise the morning's coverage over the phone.

Called City Press Call, the service has been set up by Newscan, a London news monitoring service, which reckons there is a market among City PR firms, brokers and company executives for instant access to financial coverage.

'Someone driving into work in the morning might want to know how their results have been reported,' says a spokesman. 'It might work, it might not.'

(Photograph omitted)