People & Business: Rory Bremner sure to make a good impression

Rory Bremner: One of the pack at the CBI conference

The world and his brother is addressing this year's CBI National Conference in November. For the first time the annual bunfight in Birmingham will boast all three party political leaders, although Tony Blair will address the throng via a giant video screen.

William Hague of the Conservative Party will be there on the first day, Monday, 10 November, while Paddy Ashdown will say his bit the next morning.

Just to prove the CBI conference is the place to see and be seen, Gordon Brown, John Prescott, David Blunkett and Margaret Beckett will further swell the ranks of the junketeers. Howard Davies, chairman of SIB, will address a breakfast meeting on Monday and John Birt, senior Dalek at the Beeb, will deliver his tuppenny worth on Tuesday.

If that isn't enough corporate wisdom for you, Sir Stanley Kalms of Dixons and Martin Taylor of Barclays will debate the merits of the single currency (sounds like a crowd puller) while Stephen Norris of the Road Haulage Association will argue about the environment.

Adair Turner, the CBI's director general, says: "We expect some contention, but also some areas of consensus and common ground."

And to cap it all, impressionist Rory Bremner will do his turn at the opening dinner. An evil thought occurs to me. Why not hire Bremner to do everyone else's speeches as well? It would be a whole lot cheaper and a whole lot quicker.

Citicorp is building its European headquarters right next to The Independent's offices in Canary Wharf in London's Docklands. Glancing out at the rapidly rising concrete block, I see the builders have painted floor numbers on the side: 10, 11, 12, 12+1. There is going to be no 13th floor, just as there is no 13th floor in our own tower.

A spokesperson for the office complex explains it is up to the individual owners of the buildings, in this case Citicorp, whether superstition is observed or not.

In the Far East, apparently, no-one likes having fourth floors, as the Japanese word for "four" sounds the same as "death". This is also why there is no Psion Series Four palm top computer - the company has followed its Series Three model with a Series Five. Who would want a "death" personal organiser?

Panmure Gordon has lost two analysts from its smaller companies team. Charlie Campbell is to join SBC Warburg in October in its smaller cap building companies team. Sara Wigglesworth left Panmure a couple of weeks ago after six years with the firm in order to spend more time with her family.

Peter Johnson is splitting his top job at Park Food Group, bringing in Alastair Kerr from Virgin Retail Europe to be chief executive while he remains as chairman and controlling shareholder.

The appointment of Mr Kerr, 47, will allow Mr Johnson to step back a bit from the food hamper business he founded 30 years ago and devote more time to being chairman of his beloved Everton Football Club.

Mr Kerr has spent the past seven years helping turn around Richard Branson's continental retail operations, growing the number of stores from three to 50.

"The hamper business is not a growth business any longer," says Mr Kerr.

As the reverberations from Martin Owen's departure diminish, NatWest Markets' new chief executive, Chip Kruger, has just about completed his new team, with yesterday's appointment of Robert Croft the last big signing for the moment.

Mr Croft has spent the past nine years with Morgan Stanley as an internal auditor. He will be managing director and global head of audit both for NatWest Markets and Global Financial Markets, Natwest's renamed treasury operation.

The new boy will be involved in the operation and improvement of risk management across the investment bank.

Martin Myerscough, finance director at AIM-listed drugs developer KS Biomedix, has an interesting side line, I hear. He's helping develop a washing machine which will "do for the washing machine market what Dyson did for vacuum cleaners".

Sources say the machine will be the same size as an ordinary washing machine, but will take double the load and wash it quicker.

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