People & Business

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William Hague, the august leader of the Opposition, works out regularly at a gym in Dolphin Square in Pimlico, so I am informed by a local resident.

Originally, Mr Hague was to be seen first thing in the morning wearing a grey singlet, revealing his "puny shoulders", with his then-girlfriend Ffion "trailing two steps behind him", according to my spy.

Now that he's spliced, Mr Hague has taken to wearing a T-shirt which covers up his musculature in the gym rather more effectively. And Ffion walks two steps in front.

Whatever can it all mean?

Even the most lucrative of mega-mergers can have their inconvenient side effects, as Brian Cahill has found to his cost.

Mr Cahill is director of group legal services at Glaxo Wellcome, and as such was due to address a high-powered conference for the drugs industry in Brussels this Friday.

He was to have used the occasion, organised by City law firm Beachcroft Stanleys, to enlighten the audience as to the benefits of a single market for European pharmaceuticals.

Now the proposed pounds 100bn merger with SmithKline Beecham has given Mr Cahill something rather more immediate to worry about. So he's pulled out.

The opening thus created has been filled by arch-rivals Zeneca, who have parachuted their director of government and economic affairs, Dr Jim Attridge, in to give the Brussels speech in Mr Cahill's place. It's an ill wind ...

You've all heard of the Nigel Lawson diet, which enabled our former Chancellor to shrink from a blimp to a greyhound, albeit a rather wrinkly one; now welcome the Colin Sharman diet.

Mr Sharman, international chairman of accountants KPMG, revealed the secret of his shrinkage yesterday at a press conference to discuss KPMG's snail-like progress past the European competition authorities, as it seeks permission to merge with fellow bean-counting leviathan Ernst & Young.

Mr Sharman said he had lost one and a half stones since the merger plans were announced last May. The merger means he must commute weekly to the US and elsewhere to co-ordinate talks with the rest of the firm around the globe.

He said the only way he could handle all the transatlantic flying and resultant jet lag was by abstaining from all artificial stimulants, such as alcohol and coffee. He now practically lives on camomile tea, he said.

Doesn't complete abstinence seem a harsh price to pay, even for a merger? "It's for a limited period only," Mr Sharman replied, saying he would be able to quaff ales and slurp coffee to his heart's content once the merger went through.

This is pretty important, bearing in mind Mr Sharman owns his own vineyard, at his farm in Sussex. "As I said, it's a temporary gesture," the newly- svelte auditor concluded.

To the Savoy on Tuesday night, for an evening of gambling on the gee- gees in aid of the charity Action on Addiction.

The sparkling event, attended by the great and the good, was organised by the wife of Ian Strachan, boss of BTR.

Most of the evening was spent betting on old horse races shown on a large screen, while at the end there was an auction for various items like an afternoon in a box at Ascot.The evening raised pounds 66,000 in total.

Spotted amongst the throng was David Telling, chairman of Mitie Group, the support services company.

Also spotted was Gerry Robinson of Granada, who did not stick his hand up at any point in the auction.

This was probably pretty smart of him, considering Mr Robinson was due to attend Granada's agm yesterday, where he faced stiff questioning from institutional shareholders about the pay-off he and other directors pocketed in return for reducing their severance pay entitlements.

ICN Pharmaceuticals, a giant American drugs group with five businesses in Russia, has just elected Andrei V Kozyrev, former minister for foreign affairs of Russia in 1990-96, to its board of directors. Mr Kozyrev played a key role in the new foreign policy following perestroika, and he opposed the coup of 1991. At that point Boris Yeltsin sent him to Paris to set up a democratic Russian government in exile in case the coup succeeded.

At least ICN will know who to send in to deal with any recalcitrant shareholders ...