People & Business

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To the Tate for the launch of the Bonnard exhibition with my good friend Nick Serota, director of the gallery. And what a gathering of London's glitterati it was.

The show featuring the French painter is sponsored by Ernst & Young, who managed to get their logo plastered over just about everything except the paintings. The same accountancy firm paid for the Cezanne exhibition at the Tate two years ago, and they assure me their arts sponsorship will continue after the proposed merger with KPMG.

Amongst the throng guzzling the canapes were Bernard Levin, the venerable columnist, and Alfred Brendel, the famous pianist and leading interepreter of Beethoven's sonatas. Such was the crush that I nearly bumped into Michael Palin, of Around the World fame, only to ricochet into Tim Rice, the distinguished lyricist, looking very tall and talking very loudly about his next trip to the US.

Also there was George Mallinckrodt, president of Schroders, looking his usual urbane self, as well as the novelist AS Byatt. All in all there was little time left to look at the pictures.

I hear that Ernst & Young are so keen on the exhibition that they have painted their staff mini-buses on the top with a green Bonnard signature, and a matching orange one the side.

Not to be outdone in the aesthetic stakes, Alan Sugar, the Spurs boss and founder of Amstrad, is appearing in the theatre. He is set to tread the boards at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds, this very afternoon.

Mr Sugar will be addressing students from the Leeds area on the "values of business enterprise," in a scheme suggested to him by Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, and Geoffrey Robinson, the Paymaster General. Mr Sugar will be taking his show on the road to schools in Hackney, Norwich and Birmingham, with sponsorship from Lloyds Bank.

"I started out in business as a kid, and earned a living as a kid, doing things that youngsters in Yorkshire can do there today," he says. "I want to burn the spirit of entrepreneurship into them, not to lecture them but actually show them that business can be fun, that hard work can be fun and that the rewards of hard work and common sense can be even more fun."

The indefatigable Mr Sugar also had time yesterday to take over as executive chairman at Viglen Technology, the PC company where he is the principal shareholder.

The present chairman of Viglen, Michael Beckett, said he will now become a non-executive director. Mr Beckett said Mr Sugar intends to take the company "aggressively forward". Get your shin pads on ...

If getting the lowdown on business enterprise from Mr Sugar doesn't grab you, then how about getting your arm around Lord Dickie Attenborough? This mouth-watering prospect is held out as a fringe benefit by the Criterion Theatre, in London's Piccadilly Circus, which is selling pounds 750,000 of shares over the next 40 days to private investors.

If you should subscribe to the issue, Sally Greene, the founder and managing director of the Criterion, promises you invitations to all first nights, the chance to mingle with the cast, and a general entree to the thespian world.

Lord Attenborough is chairman of the company, founded three years ago, while David Suchet is a director and Jeremy Irons and Dame Judi Dench are consultants. So invest in this company and you'll never have trouble name-dropping again.

If you're interested, ring Sally Greene or Michael Morris on 0171 839 8811. The minimum investment is pounds 1,000 for 1,000 shares, and investing over pounds 4,000 will get you a Criterion Investors' Card, offering discounts at all sorts of theatres and events.

Ms Greene says she wants to bring the excitement back to the theatre, with work by up and coming playwrights, She's currently attempting to lure Gerard Depardieu to appear. Why not invite Mr Sugar along to do his turn?

There's a very unkind rumour going around the City that the reason Lord Wolfson of Grand Universal Stores ( GUS) hasn't launched his offer document for Argos yet, following last Tuesday's hostile bid, is that he's using GUS's White Arrow parcel delivery subsidiary to deliver the document. (I couldn't possibly say where the rumour came from ...)

White Arrow was featured in a Watchdog TV programme on 29 January, in which presenter Anne Robinson recounted the story of a parcel handled by the company apparently taking two and a half months to be delivered from Poole in Dorset to Reading. Considering the Pony Express in the Old West managed 200 miles a day, this isn't great going.

All very unkind, as I said.

Peter Rodgers, a former financial editor of this very organ and now Secretary of the Bank of England, brought a touch of Top of the Pops to the Bank's presentation of its Inflation Report yesterday, with an array of coloured lights "not unlike an early Pink Floyd gig", I am told.

Mervyn King presented the data behind the bank of red and purple lights. The presentation is now transmitted live on Reuters TV, so of course Mervyn started: "Welcome to all our viewers." All they need now is Pan's People.

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