People & Business

BERKELEY Homes is annoying all sorts of people by noisily digging a big hole next to Charing Cross Station in London's West End, as the foundations for a block of flats. Among the neighbours to the site who are objecting to the noise and dirt are the Royal Society of Arts, the Royal National Lifeboat Association and the Business Exchange, a corporate finance boutique.

The Business Exchange occupies a Grade II listed building, erected in 1675, which stands right next to the Berkeley Homes site. John Spry, a director of the Exchange, got so tired of complaining about the din to Berkeley's head office that he arranged to have a phone installed at the building site, so that the head office could quickly pass on any complaints whenever the racket got to much to bear.

Unfortunately, no one at the building site could hear the phone ringing, as the pneumatic drills were too loud.

Mr Spry then offered to go next door and pick up the phone himself, but was warned by Berkeley that building sites are dangerous places and, anyway, he would be trespassing.

All very vexing, especially considering the Exchange's motto: Commercium non sine honore, which, roughly translated, means "Commerce is not without honour".

MERRILL Lynch has poached Matthew Greenburgh from Barings to be co-head of its financial institutions group. The disturbingly youthful-looking Mr Greenburgh is well known in the City as having played a leading part in the Lloyds/TSB deal and the Royal/SunAlliance link-up.

Mr Greenburgh will join Gary Weiss at Merrill as joint managing director of the financials group. Merrills is already busy advising GUS on its bid for Argos and Blackstone's bid for the Savoy, as well as being joint adviser with Chase Manhattan to the American buyers of National Car Parks.

Mr Greenburgh will replace Ian Brimecome, who advised on the Friends Provident demutualisation. Mr Brimecome is going to New York to share his experience of helping insurance companies to float.

A MEETING of the British Steel board decided yesterday to appoint one of its executive directors, John Bryant, as chief executive designate to succeed Sir Brian Moffat when the latter celebrates his 60th birthday next January. Sir Brian will retain his other role as chairman of British Steel.

Sir Brian joined the company in 1968 and held various management positions before being appointed managing director, finance, in 1986.

John Bryant isn't exactly an outsider. He joined British Steel three years earlier than Sir Brian, in 1965. He joined the board two years ago, and currently runs a portfolio of businesses including strip products, tinplate and narrow strip.

UBS is holding a big party on 23 April, St George's Day, in order to celebrate its merger with SBC (ahem). I hear the soon-to-be-extinct bank is taking over virtually the whole of Lincoln's Inn Fields for the duration of the bunfight. That should be convenient for anyone considering legal action over the termination of their contracts....

WHAT will Lord King of Wartnaby make of it? The president emeritus and former chairman of British Airways is also a non-executive director of The Telegraph Group. Presumably, the good Lord will have read The Daily Telegraph's story about BA's new logo being a "safety hazard" over his toast and marmalade yesterday morning.

The paper quoted an air traffic control report issued by the Civil Aviation Authority's safety data department. The report said that a number of foreign airline pilots had been unable to identify a BA plane as it moved towards the runway at Heathrow airport, possibly because of confusion over the new livery. BA has recently ditched the old union flag design in favour of a number of "ethnic" colour schemes.

BA reacted with fury to the story yesterday, issuing a statement by Mike Street, director of customer service and operations: "The Daily Telegraph has the right not to like our new livery - but it has no right to publish spurious and alarmist scares which may frighten passengers."

"Pilots and air traffic controllers use call signs to identify aircraft, not colour schemes, for the simple reason that airlines do change their liveries and many airlines have aircraft with different designs."

Mr Street went on: "To suggest that our livery might somehow compromise safety is not just mischievous - it is plain wrong. Safety has always been our first priority - and always will be."

A spokesman for the paper says that they are sticking by the story, they haven't heard anything from BA, and they haven't had any complaints from Lord King.

Perhaps it is time for the president of BA to step in as peacemaker in this fractious affair?

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