People & Business

Lord Saatchi has joined the board of Flextech as a non-executive director. Maurice Saatchi, a partner in M&C Saatchi, will join the cable and satellite TV company headed by Roger Luard just as Flextech steps up its subscription channel joint venture with the BBC.

If Flextech can make the UKTV project with the Beeb work, then it has a very big future. If not, then it's in trouble. Lord Saatchi's appointment fits in with Mr Luard's drive to beef up the company on all fronts, including PR and non-execs.

The media industry can be notoriously unforgiving. As one cynical insider described Lord Saatchi's appointment yesterday: "The head of a company which prizes appearance over reality is joining a company which has never turned a profit." Ouch. I'm sure it will all work out in the end.

To Claridges on Monday, courtesy of Lazards, the merchant bank, to listen to Tony Blair waffle on about this and that to an audience of high-powered industrialists. It was quite clear that many of the grandes fromages had expected a small, select "power lunch" with the nation's leader, instead of which they were confronted by a 60-strong mass meeting.

Diners were able to discuss who was the more powerful - Mr Blair, or the person sitting next to him, Carol Galley of Mercury Asset Management. Bernie Ecclestone had not been invited. After giving a rather lacklustre speech, Mr Blair quipped: "I'll be passing round the hat later for donations to the Labour Party. Nothing more than pounds 5,000, please." How they laughed.

So Liffe is moving to Spitalfields after all. Those hordes of young people in their multi-coloured jackets can relax - they're not going to be banished to Canary Wharf in London's Docklands, as many feared.

Britain's futures market has been bursting at the seams for some time now in its Cannon Street home, and yesterday the London Borough of Tower Hamlets gave the go-ahead for a new pounds 200m building on the eastern edge of the Square Mile which will contain over 680,000 square feet of space. Earlier this month John Prescott, Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, decided not to call in the planning application for the new Liffe office.

Daniel Hodson, Liffe's chief executive, is delighted that the location of its new home has been decided. So concerned was the Corporation of London to prevent Liffe from going down the river to Canary Wharf that it had agreed to buy back the Spitalfields site for pounds 40m if anything were to endanger the project, up until 2001.

This generous underwriting must have helped sway Liffe to stay in the City. The futures market currently houses around 4,500 people, and next May will temporarily spill over into the London Stock Exchange's old trading floor on Throgmorton Street. By 2003 when the shiny new Spitalfields building is due to be ready Liffe expects to house 11,700 people.

Now if I could just find out which company supplies all those colourful jackets ...

Lord MacLaurin of Tesco fame is joining Whitbread as a non-executive director, in order to help the brewing group grow in its chosen area of "leisure retailing".

He retired from the supermarket group earlier this year at the age of 60, but if anything took on even more of a challenge as Chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board

At Whitbread Lord MacLaurin will be rubbing shoulders with other non- execs like Pru Leith, the media chef who heads up the Royal Society of Arts.

Only 10 per cent of Whitbread's profits still come from its traditional business of brewing beer. Lord MacLaurin will be advising on how best to grow leisure brands such as Beefeater, Pizza Hut and TGI Fridays, not to mention Thresher off licences, made famous by the former Chancellor Norman Lamont.

The Summer of Love has come late to the UK's chartered accountants. My spies tell me that Nick Land, Ernst & Young's boyish senior partner, received a standing ovation at KPMG's annual partners' dinner held in Birmingham last week. The two accountancy giants are in merger talks, as every schoolboy knows.

Accompanied by fellow E&Y partners Andrew Jones and Clive Williams, and several hundred copies of their glossy new annual report, Nick was greeted with considerably more enthusiasm than the after-dinner entertainers, the Spicey Girls, a tribute band based on the original scary fivesome, who were "authentically bad", I am told.

It's definitely the top of the market. Sell everything and head for the hills. Car salesman Andy Fern, aged 25, has taken more than a million pounds in orders in just 17 days for his new company, Stratstone, based in Manchester's stockbroker-belt town of Wilmslow.

The spotty youth has taken orders for 24 Boxster 996 Porsches during the first two and a half weeks in the job. Andy himself is more interested in motorbikes. Myself, I'm off to the bus stop.

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