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People and Business

CONGRATULATIONS to Sir Patrick Brown, who yesterday returned to familiar haunts. The former Department of Transport mandarin has just joined the board of the bus and train group Go-Ahead.

From his new vantage point, Sir Patrick will be able to have a close look at the success of one of the projects he oversaw while at the DoT: rail privatisation. Go-Ahead owns Thameslink, the commuter "misery line",lambasted by regulators for its overcrowded and dirty trains.

The company came second in a recent survey of the rail companies which squeezed most passengers on to their crumbling trains.

I'd get the company car if I were you, Sir Patrick...

Prize clicker

ARE YOU a dab hand with the slide projector? Always fancied yourself as a bit of a flipchart wizard?

Here's the competition for you. The wonderfully named Nobo, a maker of products for business presentations, has launched the Business Presenter of the Year award.

The competition will see the City's finest battle it out for the coveted title of the best clicker and bar chart reader in the Square Mile.

Here are my two top tips for the prize, based on the knowledge accumulated in years of dozing off, sorry, listening to business presentations.

Odds-on favourite: Sir Richard Greenbury. The outgoing Marks & Spencer boss is a natural with shareholders and approaches business meetings with the amenability of a cruise missile closing in on a Baghdad arms factory.

Fancied outsider: Victor Rice. The LucasVarity chief, has knack for dazzling audiences with his deadpan charm. Look out for his monosyllabic answers and hangdog expressions.

Kids' stuff

COME TO think of it, Thomas Cassidy could also enter the business presenters' fray.

The chairman of the Blackpool toymaker Cassidy Brothers was his usual straight-talking self yesterday.

The man who gave kids of all ages delights such as the Dyson toy vacuum cleaner and the Teletubby electronic activity centre (don't ask), did not even attempt to disguise a minor fault in his latest offering: the Supermarket Checkout.

"It makes noises when a product is scanned but it's only a toy and it can't add."

I hope my local Sainsbury's has ordered a batch.

Kept afloat

I AM sometimes amazed by the risks corporate chieftains are prepared to take in the line of duty

Take this example. Sir Frank Lampl's Bovis, the construction group, went ahead with merger discussions with Mike Jeffrey's WS Atkins, the engineer, even though the link-up posed a serious threat to lavish perks for his company's staff.

According to the trade magazine Building, Bovis employees can get cut- price cruises from its parent P&O.

The boat bonanza would have disappeared had Bovis decided to tie the knot with Atkins.

In the event, the multimillion-pound merger sank on trivial things such as price and strategy.

But Bovis's bosses must still be commended for their willingness to put corporate strategy ahead of days in the floating pool and nights in the casino.

Trade name

BRIAN MARCH, the president of the ITMA yesterday announced that his body was changing its name to ... the ITMA.

Out goes the outdated "agents" from the Institute of Trade Mark Agents. Now the defenders of UK trade marks will be known as "attorneys," just like the blue-eyed government lawyers in US movies.

But there is more. "Our new name shows ITMA ready to tackle the challenges of the millennium and beyond. Our professionalism remains as high as ever" Mr March said.

Amazing what a word can do.

E-mail: j.willcock@independent.co.uk.