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People & Business

Here's a novel job creation scheme; Under the terms of the merger between SBC Warburg and UBS, most of the staff in London have had to reapply for their jobs. In practice, this means that the Warburgers have to interview the UBS people and the UBS chaps interview the Warburgers.

This bizarre charade has done nothing to lift lowly morale at UBS, where there is general acceptance that the plum jobs have already been earmarked for their new Warburg pals.

Demonstrating the cultural chasm that still separates Brits and Yanks despite decades of Americanisation over here, a management guru from across the pond has just written a new tome for businessmen: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families.

Stephen R Covey, author of the highly successful The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, has turned from the corporate to the private world, with predictably toe-curling results.

For instance, who in Britain would dare urge their readers to "create a family mission statement - a compelling, unifying expression of shared vision and values".

Mr Covey compares family life to the flight of an airplane - it's OK to be lost 90 per cent of the time so long as you know your destination. Perhaps this Disneyfication of business will go down well in Florida, but I can't see it catching on in Solihull.

Mr Covey says that UK based companies using his Covey Leadership Techniques include BT, Woolworths and British Nuclear Fuels. Obviously his touchy- feely, let's-hug-a-tree philosophy has rubbed off on Bill Cockburn, BT's group managing director.

Mr Cockburn built a fearsome reputation in his previous jobs at the Post Office and then WH Smith for cutting jobs. Yet his first real act since his surprise appointment at BT late last year has been to allow BT's London staff to quaff an airline-style quarter bottle of wine with their Christmas meal. The lucky employees tucked into Parma ham and melon, turkey with all the trimmings, Christmas pudding and the aforesaid plonk, all for pounds 8 a head.

No doubt Mr Covey would approve of such loving, supportive behaviour. On the other hand, perhaps Mr Cockburn is just fattening the staff up for the chop.

Paul Chevalier Buysse is taking early retirement from BTR, a surprise since the Belgian-born executive director is generally reckoned to be popular with the company's chief executive, Ian Strachan. BTR is trying to turn itself from an unfashionable conglomerate into a focused engineering group. It also had the distinction in 1997 of being the worst performing share in the FTSE 100. BTR said yesterday that a replacement for Mr Buysse will be made in due course.

I rang the Treasury yesterday to chat with Geoffrey Robinson about my many and varied offshore investments, but sadly the Paymaster-General's press minder, Malcolm Grade, was not in the office to arrange the interview. Mr Grade's roof had blown off in the weekend storms. This would normally be a cue for some pun on "windfall tax" or the like, but somehow I can't manage it. It must be Post Festive Season Ennui (PFSE).

Everyone seems to have a tale to tell from the recent bad weather. Lanson PR executive Tamsin Martle spent Christmas at her family's home in Wales, the region worst hit by power cuts, where the electricity was at least restored by mid-afternoon on Christmas Day, just in time to cook the turkey.

Emma Kane, a director at the Basham & Coyle PR partnership, wins the sympathy prize. Her car was broken into and all her family Christmas presents stolen just before Yuletide. It was the early hours of Christmas Eve before the window was repaired and, on the following Sunday, husband Frank, soon to star in the rebirth of Sunday Business, set off from their Brighton home to watch Spurs play Arsenal, leaving the car but taking the car keys with him. This meant he had to go all the way back to Brighton to collect the family after the game. Frank supports Spurs, who dropped into the relegation zone after salvaging a single point for the draw. I expect he's glad to be back at work.

John Dobby has retired as chief executive of Meyer, the building materials group which owns Jewson, after 39 years with the company.

As indicated last June, Alan Petersen, the managing director of Jewson, will assume the helm of the group.