"I suppose its just a family thing. The drug companies are all related to each other, but within that family is enormous variation. Some have agrochemicals operations, others consumer businesses, medical devices sides and so on. In reality you've got to allow for their differences," says Mr Abbott.
Fair enough. And which member of the monstrous family represents which pharmaceuticals company? Which company is Lurch, for example?
"I couldn't possibly comment on that," says Mr Abbott diplomatically.
IAN BLACK is retiring as chief operating officer and president, Europe, of Albright & Wilson, the specialist chemicals group based in Birmingham.
Mr Black's most striking memory of his career is that he joined the company in 1967 on exactly the same day that the business embarked on the most disastrous project in its history. Coincidentally, he adds.
"The company took the decision to build the world's biggest phosphorous furnace, in Newfoundland," he says. The idea was to use the cheap electricity available there. "In the event it was a disaster, and we had to be bailed out by an American company, Tenneco, in the 1970s," Mr Black recalls.
Mr Black, 57, has had a varied career, swapping from finance to sales functions, and is looking forward to having fun in his retirement, indulging his four hobbies of golf, music, reading and writing.
Meanwhile, Albright's chief executive, Paul Rocheleau, is still trying to rebuild the company's relationship with the City, which has been pretty rocky since it demerged from Tenneco three years ago and refloated its shares at 150p. The shares closed up 0.5p yesterday at 79p.
ANYONE WALKING the streets of London will have noticed the rash of Costa Coffees, Madisons, Seattle Coffee Companies, Aromas and so on. These coffee shop chains have recently been joined by Caffe Nero, which opened its eighth bar last week in Brewer Street, Soho.
Gerry Ford, the chain's chairman, isn't worried that too many coffee shop openings coupled with a looming recession are going to blow the froth off the capital's cappuccino boom.
Mr Ford cites analysts who believe there is room for 1,600 specialised coffee shops in the UK - eight times the present number. His next opening is scheduled in a fortnight, and he plans to have 20 coffee shops open in London by next May. After that he will "go national", giving the likes of Newcastle and Birmingham the opportunity to choose between a latte and a mocha.
Caffe Nero also claims that workers in London spend an average of pounds 50 per month on takeaway coffee, or pounds 600 per year.
Recession - what recession?
OTHERS ARE a bit more pessimistic about the economy. One of London's leading corporate undertakers has merged with an equally distinguished firm of corporate recovery firms in order to be ready for an expected downturn. Leonard Curtis has joined with HW Fisher to form a new practice with eight partners and around 40 staff. Stephen Swaden, marketing partner with Leonard Curtis, says: "We've become too closely associated with death and burial. We want to shift our emphasis to a degree."