People and Business: The art of cab driving

Click to follow
DAVID WALKER, chairman of Morgan Stanley Group (Europe), tried his hand as a taxi driver yesterday.

Happily it wasn't because he'd been laid off in a cost-cutting exercise or anything nasty like that. Quite the opposite. The investment bank is sponsoring the John Singer Sargent exhibition at the Tate Gallery in London, and has painted 30 black cabs with an appropriate blurb to advertise the fact.

Still, it must be reassuring for Sir David to know he has something to fall back on if financial markets turn really sour...

CEDRIC BROWN is back! Well, nearly.

The man who retired as chairman of British Gas two years ago after being branded a "fat cat" and having a pig named after him by trade unionists, is in line for a new chairmanship.

Atlantic Caspian, an AIM-listed oil-exploration company based in London, said yesterday that it had made Mr Brown a consultant four months ago "with the intention that he would join the board when and if we join the full [Stock Exchange] list".

Charles Helvert, finance director at Atlantic, said: "We aspire to have a full listing. It's a question of timing. This isn't the best of times to do it. Watch this space."

Mr Helvert added that the company already owns a 32 million barrel oil field in Kazkhstan, and has an option over another with three quarters of a billion barrels.

Mr Brown, who so annoyed the unions when he got a 75 per cent pay rise at British Gas, hasn't got any other major business commitments at the moment. He's just finished moving from his mock Tudor mansion in Beaconsfield to a new home in Leicestershire.

One source said Mr Brown was "doing due diligence on Atlantic" on whether to accept the chairmanship, replacing the current incumbent Peter Catto. As Mr Helvert said, watch this space.

HERE'S A chance to shop your mates if you work at Lehman Brothers. The battered American investment bank has seen its shares fall by more than 70 per cent in the past three months on rumours that it may be in financial trouble.

The management has responded by setting up a hot-line for employees to report any colleagues spreading damaging rumours about the bank.

Establishing the hot-line is part of "our efforts to get to the bottom of who has created or spread rumours about the firm, and why," chief legal officer Thomas Russo said in a memo to employees last week.

"We are actively working with regulators to try to identify third parties that might be behind this irresponsible and possibly illegal contact," the memo concluded.

STANDARD CHARTERED is also worried. It has just called in a forensic expert to investigate whether an arsonist is at work after three fires in the space of a week at its Aldermanbury head office. Luckily, no-one has been hurt.

IT SEEMS to be catching. Diners were disturbed half way through their lunches yesterday by a fire alert at the City Brasserie in Mark Lane, near Monument in the City. All diners were evacuated to the street outside - two chaps thoughtfully taking their wine with them - and four fire engines and a police car attended the scene.

Failing to see any smoke, the depleted crowd of diners (some did a runner) were allowed back in to finish pudding about 10 minutes later.

It's an exciting life in the City.

AS IT is in Gloucestershire. A former RAF flight engineer from Cirencester yesterday won the Midland Bank National "Small Business of the Year" award.

Arthur Jupp set up Aimteq Services two years ago in his spare bedroom. In his first eight months' trading he made a profit of pounds 50,000 on a turnover of pounds 180,000, selling software that combats the millennium bug.

Lord Lichfield, the Royal photographer, helped judge the competition and Barbara Roche MP, Minister for Small Firms, presented Mr Jupp with a trophy and a cheque for pounds 5,000.

Perhaps Mr Jupp could give Lehman a few words of advice on how to run a successful company.