PEOPLE & BUSINESS

The Diageo launch party on Tuesday night was an exuberant affair, according to hung-over participants, with top drinks executives and journalists revelling on the the good boat Silver Sturgeon as it steamed up and down the Thames.

The boatload of party-goers were celebrating the formation of the biggest drinks company in the world with a market value of around pounds 24bn. The Sturgeon was fitted out with six separate drinks stands for the occasion, where revellers could sample the company's different brands. Diageo's co-chairmen Sir George Bull and Tony Greener were enthusiastic samplers.

Both wore sailor's hats, Sir George's tipped to a rakish angle when he addressed the throng. In an impromptu speech, he said he had visited five of the six drinks stands and was enjoying himself, and felt like telling a string of bad jokes. "We're on this boat to launch Diageo on the high seas of commerce," was one of the few to be remembered by the worse-for- wear audience.

Not surprising, really. The stands included Johnnie Walker, Gordon's and Pimm's, Smirnoff, Malibu and Redstripe, and Guinness and Baileys.

Tony Greener in turn congratulated Sir George on his recent knighthood and said he hadn't visited as many drinks stands as his co-chairman, so he had some catching up to do. Tony was on familiar ground that night, as he is a keen sailor. He's building a 44-ft yacht for his retirement.

Sadly for the participants there was a Diageo board meeting and egm to agree the company's share reconstruction yesterday. I hope there was enough Alka Seltzer to go around.

Good to see two old acquaintances of mine getting gainful employment. Martin Owen, deposed leader of NatWest Markets, and Andreas Whittam Smith, founder and former editor of this very organ, have both joined the Board of the Tunbridge Wells Equitable, a friendly society.

Mr Owen, chairman of the Salvation Army Territorial Advisory Board, said: "I have been a member of the society for 14 years and have been impressed with its commitment to mutuality, its investment performance and its trust and integrity in dealing with its members."

Mr Whittam Smith also favours such mutual institutions: "They allow savers to obtain the full benefit from their investments."

The former editor will no doubt find the friendly society's board meetings a refreshing change from the daily diet of sex and violence he must have to sit through as president of the British Board of Film Classification. On the other hand, having spent so long in Fleet Street, he will already have seen far worse.

Musical chairs at the Treasury, following its successful mission to plant two of its tight-fisted mandarins in the high-spending departments of health and social security.

One of the resulting internal vacancies has been turned into a plum job co-ordinating all the things Gordon Brown really cares about - welfare- to-work, tax and benefit reform, welfare spending and work incentives. The lucky winner is Nick Macpherson, who has been the Treasury's commissar on Martin Taylor's tax and benefit working group.

Mr Macpherson was an obvious candidate for advancement under the new regime as he turned up on the guest list at the wedding of Ed Balls, the Chancellor's top economic adviser, and our own former colleague Yvette Cooper, now the telegenic MP for Pontefract and Castleford. Into his job has been promoted Gabs Makhlouf, currently Gordon Brown's principal private secretary. And his seat is filled by Tom Scholar, a high-flyer who also happens to be the son of the DTI's Permanent Secretary, Michael Scholar.

Sir Terry Burns, the Treasury's Permanent Secretary, has obviously been too busy sorting out these moves to pay any attention to the outbreak of recycled gossip about how badly he gets on with Gordon Brown. It has been no secret that the architect of British monetarism and the Chancellor do not see eye to eye, even though Sir Terry shares with Mr Balls and Charlie Whelan, the Chancellor's press secretary - and pretty much anybody else who is getting on in the New Labour Treasury - a mania for football. Perhaps it's because he's a QPR fan.

There are no flies on Morgan Stanley. The American investment bank has just rented over 52,000 square feet of office space in the Canary Wharf tower in London's Docklands to the Financial Services Authority, Howard Davies's new regulatory leviathan. The FSA will rub shoulders with the bankers for 18 months, after which it will move into its permanent home over the road at the office complex's North Colonnade. Until then, will they have separate lifts?

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