People & Business

Mick Newmarch is back. And he's pulling no punches. Just 18 months after walking out of the top job at the Prudential after an almighty row with the Government and regulators over the pensions mis-selling scandal, Mr Newmarch has been appointed a non-executive director of Bourne End Properties.

After a lay-off spent travelling the world salmon fishing, "my first love", Mr Newmarch is keen to set the record straight on why he left the Pru, the insurance giant he joined back in 1955.

"I left because the environment was increasingly distasteful. The constant attacks by the regulatory authorities were really unselective, not objective, and emotional. A great deal of nonsense was being talked about the industry (and mis-selling). It was wholly unsatisfactory. The industry had a very strong case to defend.... It has been blackguarded."

No one can accuse Mr Newmarch of sitting on the fence. Since he left the Pru he has collected just one non-exec position, at Celltech, but he says he is about to make "another more substantial announcement soon". Perhaps Howard Davies is recruiting him to help run NewRo.

Only joking. Mr Newmarch says he was approached by Bourne End and liked their management. Bourne End Properties chairman Don Hughes said Mr Newmarch will become chairman on 30 September when Mr Hughes retires from the board.

Bourne End was originally a pounds 50m property investment vehicle for Leo Noe, the former chief executive. He's still a big shareholder. It's now run by David Roberts, based in Wigmore Street, and specialises in shopping centres. And no, it doesn't sell pensions.

I've just received a press release from Nick Bravery, general manager of the AA Driving School. I'm sure he's heard all the jokes before, so I won't bother.

Hard to know what to make of the latest developments in the plant hire market unveiled yesterday by Alistair Napier, new managing director of Hewden Stuart. As well as its traditional areas of renting road rollers and the like to navvies, he reveals that the UK's biggest plant hirer is "spreading into agriculture", with tractors that can measure the productivity of the operator.

"At the other end of the scale, we are also hiring out more toilets. So there's also growth in the bottom end of the market."

Is this all code for plans to launch the world's first hi-tech super loo to measure productivity? Or is it just a barometer for Blairite Britain?

Trevor Smallwood and his fellow directors at Firstbus, the bus and train company, had a more stressful meeting than usual with analysts this week. The financial performance of the company wasn't the problem. Around a dozen analysts were travelling to Firstbus's operations in Ipswich, and departed from Liverpool Street Station in the City using a Firstbus train.

The train broke down. It ground to a halt in Kelvedon in Essex, to be precise. The marooned analysts managed to battle their way to Chelmsford, and Firstbus's management team, showing commendable initiative, travelled post haste from Ipswich to meet them there.

I understand the questions about reliability had a bit more bite than usual.

Carol Galley, the "Ice Maiden" of Mercury Asset Management, is off to a German beer festival at the weekend. MAM's deputy chairman and highest paid woman in Britain (pounds 6m) is married to Reinhard Winkler, a German stockbroker. No doubt they often swig a few steins together.

BAA has appointed Lawrence Urquhart to the new role of deputy chairman and said it is expected that he will succeed Dr Brian Smith as chairman on Dr Smith's retirement in July 1998. With the greatest respect to the urbane Mr Urquhart, he is unlikely to have much of a material impact on the airport company, since its chief executive Sir John Egan rules it with a rod of iron.

Mr Urquhart, 62, has been a non-exec at BAA for four years and is chairman of no less than three companies - Burmah Castrol, ECC (the former English China Clays) and Scottish Widows Fund Life Assurance Society. He's also a non-exec at Dresdner Kleinwort Benson.

He was an executive boss of Burmah until 1993, then handed over to Jonathan Fry and became chairman. That was when Mr Urquhart's non-executive portfolio took off.

He is described by a colleague as "an average but extraordinarily enthusiastic golfer, a country pursuits man of limited ability - originally trained as an accountant, a tough Scot with a sense of humour. One of the great and the good of the Scottish mafia."

And as such, no doubt Mr Urquhart will be applying for the new credit card being launched by The Scotsman newspaper and backed by the Royal Bank of Scotland. Flushed by the "Yes-Yes" vote, the newspaper has launched the card featuring famous Scottish inventors who are a "credit to the nation".

I wonder if Bruce Patullo, Governor of the Bank of Scotland, will apply for one. He was practically disembowelled by his fellow countrymen for daring to suggest that devolution might lead to higher taxes and the like.

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