People and Business: Sir John's comedy turn

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The Independent Online
TO THE Investors Chronicle UK Stockbrokers Awards to hear an ebullient Sir John Harvey-Jones hand out the prizes.

And what an occasion. The evening was compered by Jeremy King, who had abruptly and unexpectedly ceased being publisher of the Investors Chronicle two days previously.

The organisers were understandably nervous before the evening awards ceremony, as Mr King had not attended the rehearsal. In the event, the ex-publisher carried off the job with considerable aplomb.

I trust Mr King's severance payoff from the IC reflects this unusual service, which was by any standards above and beyond the call of duty.

Sir John enjoyed handing out the prizes, although the ex-troubleshooter roundly lambasted the script he had been given. He ridiculed the prize- winning categories, saying "they must have been designed by a Russian rocket scientist".

Among the lucky winners given cut-glass bowls by the jolly industrialist were American retail giant Charles Schwab and NatWest Stockbrokers. Sir John drew laughs for his description of the bowls as "claret glasses".

Another winner was Barclays Stockbrokers or, as Sir John described them, "Barclays Stockholders", much to the audience's amusement.

The company guru, now with the bit firmly between his teeth, went on to introduce Brewin Dolphin, private client brokers, as "Brewer Dolphin".

Ceri Jones, editor of the IC, sat at the top table and there was a generous sprinkling of IC staffers around the place. Redmayne Bentley won the overall award, as well as the "claret glass" for best regional broker.

KEVIN MAXWELL may be facing legal action to comply with the DTI Inspectors' report into the Mirror Group flotation, which happened seven years ago.

The law grinds even more slowly, though, in the case of Thomas Ward, an American lawyer who still has a warrant for his arrest outstanding over the Guinness saga, which happened over 10 years ago. Mr Ward, who was one of the figures at the centre of the Guinness scandal, was acquitted on charges of theft in 1993. Mr Ward then returned to the US and refused to have anything to do with the DTI Inspectors, who were compiling a report on the Guinness affair and wanted to interview him.

The Inspectors got a court order that Mr Ward should come to court and justify why he wasn't co-operating. He failed to turn up and was subsequently found in contempt of court by Mr Justice Millett on 15 March 1994. A warrant was issued for his arrest.

And, as the DTI assures me, the warrant is still very much alive.

CLARE RODWAY has been dubbed "Mother About Town" since the legal spin doctoress returned from giving birth to twins. Leaving Adam and Phoebe at home, not to mention three-and-a-half year old Jack, Ms Rodway sprang into action for new employers Sector PR last week with a cocktail party for American corporate contacts at the fashionable Criterion brasserie in Piccadilly.

The bash was aimed primarily at visiting lawyers from Finnegan Henderson, a law practice based in Washington DC which has over 200 lawyers dedicated solely to intellectual property (IP). Mark Sommers, a senior litigation partner, was leading a team of visitors from the San Francisco office to see clients in London.

Mr Sommers was soon locked in conversation with Serena Tierney, top IP lawyer at niche media law firm Marriott Harrison, who is preparing "an incredibly important pitch" of some sort. Watch this space.

Also networking hard was Richard Newton, who gave up being a financial journalist at the Sunday Telegraph a fortnight ago. Mr Newton has got together with a group of "brilliant computer chaps" he met last year and launched his own company, Screendragon International, to design and make screensavers for computers.

The actual product is under wraps at the moment. Has Mr Newton put much capital in himself, I ask? "What, on my meagre journalist's savings?" he replies.

"We're on the fundraising trail at the moment," he says. "The real reason I left [journalism] was to practise my golf swing."