People and Business: How Soros pulled the plug

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The Independent Online
GEORGE SOROS is pulling out all the stops to plug his latest book, The Crisis of Global Capitalism, a stirring critique of the the free market. The billionaire speculator's latest stunt is to postpone his appearance before the Treasury Select Committee to avoid giving MPs a sneak preview of his masterpiece and to hype up the launch.

Hungary's wealthiest son has moved the date of the testimony on currency speculation, his specialist subject, from next week to 9 December. By a lucky coincidence, the new date falls two days after the UK launch of the book.

Any suggestion that Mr Soros would want to use the Right Honourable Members to help his book up the bestseller charts is indignantly denied by its publishers, Little, Brown. Mr Soros is going for the mass readership and would never dream of using a elitist group of MPs as an advertising board, the publisher says.

Instead Little, Brown, which paid a mere $300,000 (pounds 180,000) for the rights, is lining up a raft of interviews with TV and radio big guns. Listeners to the Today programme and viewers of Newsnight will no doubt have the privilege of hearing Mr Soros lambasting the system which made him rich, a media sensation equivalent to Robespierre going on French TV to decry the use of the guillotine.

But the Soros juggernaut will not stop at the serious opinion makers. The publisher's hype campaign is set to include an appearance on a "popular programme". So will we see the great man discussing sterling futures with Richard and Judy? "I couldn't possibly tell you," says a Little, Brown spokeswoman.

ALWAYS THOUGHT that Gordon Gekko was a bit of a softie? Fancy yourself as a closet financial wizard? Don your red braces, fork out pounds 39.99 and switch on "Wall Street Trader 99", the first computer game to simulate stock exchange dealing.

The brainchild of former Paribas trader Jean Marc De Fety, the CD-Rom challenges you to rescue a fictional Hong Kong bank called Learing (does it ring any bells?) from its collapse.

To achieve the task you can call upon analysts' notes, share-price graphs and the media, led by the authoritative Financial Drive and Wall Street Terminal. From the second level onwards, you will have to kill off a swathe of business rivals with hostile takeovers and cunning share dealings. You can engage in insider dealing, but always make sure that you have a good virtual lawyer at hand.

But it is the final level which will prove the undoing of many an amateur trader. To become the toast of the pixellated Wall Street, you have to save a fictional currency called "the euro" from an impending financial crisis. A complimentary copy to Jacques Santer should be in the post as we speak.

HOWARD FLIGHT, the chairman of asset manager Guinness Flight and a Conservative MP, was not amused when he took the podium at a recent gathering of UK and European fund managers in the beautiful Grocers' Hall in the City.

Surveying the audience at the end of a long and somewhat liquid dinner, Mr Flight found the atmosphere a trifle too relaxed. His worries were confirmed when his speech was interrupted by a constant barrage of heckling more akin to a downmarket comedy club than a high-powered City audience.

Mr Flight was said by one member of his audience to have been "in very low spirits" at the end of his speech.

ROB GRAY, the head of the energy banking team at Robert Fleming, has been poached by BT Alex.Brown. Mr Gray will become the US bank's managing director responsible for its banking activities in energy in Europe, Asia and the States. The US bank's swoop on Flemings' energy team was completed by the hirings of director Jon Newbon and manager Rupert Newall, who will join as director and vice-president respectively.

DAVID MILLER, the former finance director of the cable TV operator General Cable, has joined the construction and support services group Amey. Mr Miller replaces Gerry McCormack, who "leaves in good terms to pursue other opportunities".

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