People and Business: Beckitt out the picture

JOHN BECKITT, managing director of Norweb, was due to have his picture taken with two young ladies from ITV's The Price is Right this week, to help launch Energi Freedom Pounds, a range of discount holidays for gas and electricity customers.

"Suitably attired in attractive swimwear, Emma Steadman and Kimberley Cowell will take to their poolside sun loungers," trilled the press blurb. Except that when it came to it, Mr Beckitt bashfully refused to be pictured with the girls. Instead Mike Brindle, marketing manager for Energi, had to perform the honours.

BRIAN SOUTER startled the incestuous world of business journalism yesterday by recruiting the deputy editor of The Scotsman, Robbie Ballantyne, to be Stagecoach's first-ever in-house press spokesman.

Mr Ballantyne will now have to take the train north from Edinburgh to Perth, gateway to the Highlands, to work in Stagecoach's tiny headquarters, situated over a travel agents.

The pugnacious Mr Ballantyne has spent nearly 25 of his 45 years in business journalism, notably at The Times, where he was business editor and business news editor.

Mr Souter has also pinched Alistair Smith from East Of Scotland Water to be head of information technology at Stagecoach. He expects to recruit a head of human resources soon.

According to a recently published history of the company, Stagecoach, by Christian Woolmar, himself a former transport correspondent with The Independent, Mr Souter could do with a spin doctor.

Mr Woolmar recounts how Mr Souter was very surprised to learn in the spring of 1997 that South West Trains had received 40,000 complaints a year. He told journalists: "In the bus business if they didn't like what we were doing they'd throw a brick through the bus garage window." Getting into his stride, Mr Souter added: "Are they complaining in work time?"

GEC HAS lured Sir Charles Masefield from the corridors of Whitehall to the main board as an executive director and vice-chairman responsible for the group's marketing activity. He will report directly to the chief executive, Lord Simpson.

Sir Charles has been head of Defence Export Services at the Ministry of Defence since September 1994. He will be replaced there by Tony Edwards, chairman of TI Group's aerospace interests, who stepped down from TI this week.

Previously Sir Charles was the commercial director at Airbus Industrie, in charge of worldwide marketing, sales and sales financing of all Airbus products. He started his career at British Aerospace.

Sir Geoffrey Pattie is also joining GEC as group communications director.

DO WE detect the fell hand of Simon Lewis, recently appointed spokesman for Buckingham Palace, in the decision to send Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh on a tour of City institutions next Wednesday in order to "get to know more about the financial services industry"?

Certainly not, Mr Lewis insists. The man seconded from his pounds 150,000-a- year PR job at Centrica to the Palace says the tour was arranged long before he arrived.

The couple will start their one-day tour at the Financial Services Authority in Canary Wharf. Whether they will get there by joining the sweaty, frustrated masses on the delay-prone Docklands Light Railway has not been announced.

Then it's back to the Square Mile to meet the Lord Mayor, Lord Levene, at Bankers Trust. The Queen will then visit Merrill Lynch and Electra, while the Duke deals with Lloyds TSB and the Stock Exchange.

After lunch, Eddie George will show them around the Bank of England and introduce them to members of the Monetary Policy Committee. Perhaps they can do us all a favour and send the interest-rate hawks to the Tower.

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