People & Business

It was a good day yesterday for former Tory ministers looking for new ways to scrape a living. General Accident snapped up Lord Lang of Monkton, formerly trade minister Ian Lang, as a non-executive director. Another Scot, Lord Fraser of Carmyllie QC, former energy minister and Lord Advocate, was appointed non-executive chairman of JKX Oil & Gas, a London listed exploration and production company.

For the urbane Lord Lang, once the MP for Galloway Upper Nithsdale, this is a return to well-known pastures. He spent 18 years working for an insurance broker north of the border before concentrating on politics. "GA was very well known to me then. I'm delighted to be renewing my acquaintance," he said.

He's also currently deputy chairman of European Telecom, an equipment distributor based in Slough, and sits on the board of a number of Scottish investment trusts. "I've got one or two other things in negotiation," he adds enticingly. Lord Fraser likewise has a deep well of experience in his chosen field. While at the DTI he led trade missions to more than 25 countries, and he is a non-executive director of Elf Exploration UK and a lay director of the International Petroleum Exchange.

Bob McCrackin, chief executive of JKX, says the company's main asset is a 49 per cent stake in Poltava Petroleum, an oil a nd gas company operating in the Republic of Georgia and the Ukraine. JKX has also recruited Viscount Asquith OBE, a former diplomat at the British Embassy in Kiev, and Leoned Tiahlo, a Ukrainian oil man, as non-executive directors.

When asked where he came from, Mr McCrackin replied: "In 1645 I was Scottish." In fact he's from Ohio, and spent 14 years with Mobil.

British-owned investment banks may be a bit of a dog's dinner at the moment, but Dutch giant ABN Amro continues to go from strength to strength in London. ABN has poached Keith Edginton from UBS to supervise the bank's move from half a dozen different sites in London to a flash new City building now under construction at 250 Bishopsgate.

Mr Edginton, 41, will report to Chris Tupker, who has the business-card- busting title of "senior executive vice president, Directorate General Network Management and Services, ABN Amro Bank NV".

Mr Tupker says disarmingly that the bank realised it needed someone of a higher calibre than it already had to supervise such a complex move, and when they went out into the recruitment market "the right person was very difficult to find."

Both commercial and investment banking activities will be moving under one roof, and Mr Tupker says that ABN will be leaning heavily on Mr Edginton's experience of running UBS's settlement and IT activities in Europe.

Mr Tupker is more than happy to squash speculation that ABN is considering a bid for a British investment bank (not that there are many left): "We're happy to grow organically at the moment."

Which doesn't stop ABN's corporate finance operation in the City from hoovering up big signings. It has already made half a dozen this year. Yesterday it signed up Steve Gregg, an Australian with a bushy moustache, from Lehman Brothers as head of a new consumer products team. Hugh Scott- Barrett, head of corporate finance, says he is on the look out for more talent.

John Simpson, chief executive of Mayflower, the UK engineering group which may or may not bid for Vickers, was pictured last week posing proudly in front of a Chrysler Plymouth Prowler, a mighty American sports car for which Mayflower provides the body panels.

This week Autocar magazine reports that the Prowler, launched by Chrysler this year, is in huge demand in the US. However, the magazine notes: "Problems with paint quality and alignment of the aluminium bodies - made by British company Mayflower - have slowed production, which means Chrysler will only build 700 cars by the end of this year."

A Mayflower spokesman said yesterday: "The Chrysler Plymouth Prowler is a new and innovative product for which Chrysler has exacting standards. Mayflower has not delayed the ramp-up [the build up in production] and is unaware of alignment problems in the body. We don't paint, so paint quality can't be down to us."

If you're interested in buying a Prowler, by the way, you'll have to go the US and fork out $39,000. The "modern hot rod" is available in shocking yellow and purple.

Clare Rodway, director of marketing at Nicholson Graham & Jones, the City law firm, recently fired off a series of announcements that the firm has "doubled in size in the last six years", with turnover up 17 per cent in the last financial year.

Ms Rodway called only days later to add that her pregnancy had just doubled in size as well - she's having twins. The intrepid spokeswoman is battling on at work until the end of November, and the sprogs are due in February.

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