People & Business: Tennis anyone? City clears out for the summer holidays
Tuesday 05 August 1997
Incidentally, I hear Mr George has a flunkey to follow him around drinks parties to make sure a clean ashtray is on hand wherever he wanders. Isn't it time he gave up the demon weed?
Anyway, Mervyn King, deputy governor of the Old Lady, also plays tennis, but it is not known whether he will be playing Mr Brown this summer. Tuscany is, of course, the favoured destination for the political masters of the European Union. Tony Blair and his counterparts, Romano Prodi of Italy and Lionel Jospin of France, are likely to bump into each other for a quick penne all' arrabbiata in a hill town somewhere near Siena. Helmut Kohl prefers to stick to the Austrian Alps, I hear.
Some people have had their hols and are back at their desks - such as BZW's Attila the Brum, Bill Harrison, who returned from safari a couple of weeks back.
Mr Harrison hasn't been idle. He's just hired Naguib Kheraj from Robert Fleming to be BZW's chief administrative officer. Mr Kheraj, a ludicrously precocious 33, spent 10 years with Salomon Brothers before joining Fleming, where he narrowly missed Mr Harrison during the latter's stint there. The Dulwich College and Cambridge-educated Mr Kheraj will report to Mr Harrison on functions including IT, human resources and finance. Mr Harrison has also poached Nick Kelly from UBS to be human resources director of BZW.
Marjorie Scardino, chief executive of Pearson, discovered this week that owning a TV studio can be a double-edged sword. She hosted Pearson's results conference in the company's swanky new TV headquarters off Tottenham Court Road, London, in a TV studio usually used to shoot the light entertainment programme Give us a Clue?
This game show features celebs such as Lionel Blair and Una Stubbs acting out charades to other luvvies. Yesterday the Give us a Clue? signs had to be removed from sight, lest they give the wrong impression of Pearson's new strategy, which involves doubling in size over the next five years. Ms Scardino said: "We thought it would be inappropriate to have the Give us a Clue? logo behind us as we announced these results."
Incidentally, Pearson's new cathedral-like complex for telly was originally supposed to cost pounds 15m and ended up at pounds 40m. Ms Scardino has taken this on the chin. She confided to me yesterday that she'd already bought 10,000 shares in Pearson at 749p when she became chief executive of the company. The shares now stand at 692.5p so she's sitting on a theoretical loss, but she insists she's planning to buy more shares.
Ms Scardino's comments had to vie with the screening yesterday of some climactic moments in Grundy TV, one of the stations owned by Pearson. One such epic moment included the wedding of Scott and Charlene in Neighbours, played by Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan, as well as a dodgy German version of another soap, Sons and Daughters. It's all a long way away from Ms Scardino's original foothold in the Pearson empire at The Economist.
Mind you, everything seems to be televised these days. I hear Mervyn King will present the Bank of England's inflation report next month with a TV camera crew on hand.
Birmingham City Football Club has appointed David Gold as chairman following the retirement of Jack Wiseman. Mr Wiseman will take up the non-executive role of vice-chairman and will continue to be actively involved with the club.
Mr Gold and his brother, Ralph, own a big chunk of the club and have built quite a business empire since emerging from the East End of London. They recently launched their own executive airline based at Biggin Hill, the old Battle of Britain aerodrome, in Kent. They are thought to be worth well over pounds 200m.
Rio Tinto has appointed two new non-executive directors, and they're both card-carrying members of the great and the good: Sir Richard Sykes, chairman and chief executive of Glaxo Wellcome, and Lord Tugendhat, chairman of Abbey National. Lord Tugandhat is famous for knowing virtually everyone that matters, having been an MP, a big cheese at the Civil Aviation Authority and a grand fromage in the European Union. Most impressive, I think, is the fact that he wrote a book in 1986 entitled Making Sense of Europe. If only someone would.
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