PEOPLE & BUSINESS

The proposed merger between accountancy behemoths Coopers & Lybrand and Price Waterhouse is bound to prompt the usual scrambling for top jobs in the new body. The juiciest plums in the US have already been divvied up, but the line-up in the UK, which will be a separate couple organisation, is wide open.

The smart money is on Peter Smith, the top man at Coopers, with his opposite number, Ian Brindle of Price Waterhouse, limping along on the rails.

Further fuel was added to this view on Sunday when Coopers ran out finalists of the annual Reuters City Sevens at Richmond Athletic Ground, west London. Although the Coopers team were beaten 43- nil in the final by Lloyd's of London, they did better than the Price Waterhouse sevens team, which was knocked out in the quarter finals, also by Lloyd's of London, 12- 10.

Coopers may have done better in the final, but looked puffed after close victories over the London Stock Exchange and ING Barings.

The event has been organised every September for the past 25 years by Keith Sheppard, a former employee of Hoare & Co. Cliff Morgan, the affable former Welsh international, presented the Cup to the winners from Lime Street, while the event raised pounds 12,000 for Sparks, the sport aiding medical research for children.

I hear that Guy Hands of Nomura, who controls a huge number of pubs, trains and army houses, was a good friend of William Hague, the leader of the Conservative Party, when the duo were up at Oxford.

The 36-year-old financial wunderkind, who has just ruffled City feathers with his hostile bid for the William Hill betting chain, spent so much time on his business dealings that he got a Third, quite an achievement at Oxford.

The head of Nomura's principle finance group was also a university contemporary of Ian Hislop, the editor of Private Eye. But it's the Hague connection that interests me most. Perhaps Mr Hands could give his old chum a few tips on presentational style.

Hard on the heels of suggestions that the Government is planning an early entry to EMU, here comes another blow for continental integration: Chris Ide, managing director of Swiss Life (UK), will be the first Englishman to be head of the company's European division and a member of the executive board.

Mr Ide is only the second non-Swiss to join the executive board in the Swiss Gnomes' 140-year history.

He joined the company a quarter of a century ago and became managing director in 1989. Since then Swiss Life's premium income has tripled from pounds 64m to pounds 190m. Sounds like Tony Blair should sign him up.

Until this week Barry Leggetter was chief executive of Fleischman Hillard, a PR company bought by Omnium, a giant international advertising conglomerate. Mr Leggetter went into work yesterday morning to find out he no longer had a job.

Tough, since he was due to take over as chairman of the Institute of Public Relations next year. Still, I am sure Mr Leggetter's well-honed talents will enable him to put a gloss on the week's events.

Intrum Justitia, Europe's biggest firm of debt collectors, has got a new UK boss. James Burton, who began his career as a bank clerk with the Co-operative Bank in 1975, has been appointed managing director of Intrum Justitia's UK arm. He joins from General Electric's capital consumer finance business, where he was director of global operations.

Good to see that the Enid Blyton industry continues to thrive. The Blyton Company has sold Granada pounds 3m worth of film and TV rights, including the Secret Seven and the Barney Mysteries. Granada is planning at least 26 episodes of the Blyton Mystery and Adventure programmes. The Blyton Company has also signed a deal to make a modern TV series of Malory Towers.

It all sounds like spiffing stuff and I'm sure there have been lashings of ginger beer all round.

I've just been faxed 11 identical copies of a four-page press release from the Institute of Management titled "Labour is working, say Business Leaders." Maybe so. The institute's automatic fax machine isn't.

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