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The Independent Online
FLICKING through the annual report for Emerson Electric I spot a familiar face. For it seems that Sir Bob Horton, chairman of Railtrack, is a director of the US electronics giant. Emerson, of course, has incurred the wrath of the City with its rather clumsy bid to take control of Astec (BSR), a manufacturer of power supplies.

Emerson, you may recall, already owns 51 per cent of Astec, and last month chief operating officer George Tamke told the remaining shareholders he would offer them 111p - the prevailing market price - for their shares. If they refused, Emerson would remove three independent directors from Astec's board and halt its dividend payments.

The shareholders were sufficiently enraged to break their usual anonymity and publicly express their disgust. A few of them, including respectable fund managers such as Royal & SunAlliance, Clerical Medical and Equitable Life, are even planning to take Emerson to court later this week, claiming unfair prejudice.

Which leaves Sir Bob in a rather tricky situation. Because most of these institutional shareholders also have holdings in Railtrack. And while Emerson might be a able to live with the disapproval of the City, Sir Bob cannot afford to be so gung-ho. What will he do? Watch this space.

BG, formerly British Gas, has snapped up the recently retired head of the British Diplomatic Service, Sir John Coles, as a non-executive director. This seems like a good move by the company, because it is concentrating more on overseas exploration and production since it split off its household supply business, Centrica.

Sir John, 60, has a working knowledge of more than 70 countries. He retired as Permanent Secretary in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office last November after a career which included advising Margaret Thatcher and three successive Foreign Secretaries.

The much travelled diplomat is currently on holiday in Australia. If he ever gets round to writing his memoirs they would make a fascinating read. He was Private Secretary to Mrs Thatcher during the Falklands War, and principal policy adviser to Douglas Hurd, Malcolm Rifkind and Robin Cook. Pressing the flesh on behalf of a gas company should be a piece of cake in comparison.

ARE THE ladies taking over football? You've heard of Karen Brady, chairman of Birmingham City. Now welcome Virginie Lannevere, a football analyst with Salomon Smith Barney.

"Not only am I a woman, I'm French as well - isn't it awful," she laughs. She first started covering footy clubs in February 1997and has just published a note advising clients to stay neutral on Tottenham Hotspur.

So does she support a club? "No way. Although if I was to choose it would be Manchester." City, I presume. Her real passion is for rugby, and she claims to have supported England when they were trounced by France in Paris 10 days ago. "But I can't deny I was happy with the result," she adds.

NOW HERE'S a good idea: drinking beer for charity. I don't suppose it's much of a surprise to discover that the Hogshead City Beer Challenge, due to kick off on 2 March, is the dreamchild of a bunch of rugby players. Perhaps La Lannevere would like to take part.

And the rugby players are a distinguished bunch. The charity involved, the Richard Langhorn Trust, is headed by Peter Winterbottom, the former England open-side flanker whom Will Carling once described as "the hardest forward I've ever met".

The trust was set up in 1994 in memory of Harlequins and England player Richard Langhorn, a popular character in the City where he worked. The Hogshead Pub Company, part of Whitbread Inns, has invited up to 80 City firms to take part in the challenge at four Hogshead pubs in the Square Mile.

It might sound as if a "beer challenge" is a challenge to drink as much beer as you can, but in fact the contestants will merely be asked to identify half a pint of real ale from a list of 20 beers, over eight "rounds".

Loads of rugby hearties like Brian Moore and Mick "the Munch" Skinner will attend, as well as the 1997 Guild of Beer Writers' writer of the year, Roger Protz. Hogshead says Mr Protz will act as a "sommelier" to the four events. Surely a more robust, beery title could be used. How about "beermeister"?

SCOTIA, the drugs developer, has asked me to point out that Gerry Lafferty has been appointed to the new role of group services director, as well as taking over as company secretary. He will not be head of medical manufacturing, as I suggested earlier this week, that role going to the newly appointed director, Dr Alastair Selkirk.

FREEPAGES Group, the consumer information service which operates under the Scoot trade name in the UK, has appointed John Coleman as managing director of Scoot (UK).

Mr Coleman was managing director of the Brinks group, the old Brinks Mat company which transports high value goods such as gold bars.

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