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Citibank's economics duo Neil MacKinnon and Michael Burke are leaving the US bank to set up their own consulting firm to advise corporate treasurers, fund managers and hedge funds on global markets.

Mr MacKinnon handed in his notice as chief currency strategist at Citibank yesterday morning after six years with the bank. He says his phone at home was ringing all afternoon with prospective clients congratulating him on the move.

"We think there is a niche for a an independent consultancy providing top quality research. We reckon about 70 per cent of our customers will be overseas," says Mr MackKinnon. He has worked with Mr Burke, a former financial journalist and senior international economist at Citibank, for a number of years.

The duo's move drew some acid comments from a rival pundit who wished to remain nameless: "Everyone who's tried it hitherto has failed. There's no culture in the UK for people to pay for economic research because so much of it is shovelled out for free.

"What with the UBS redundancies, there could be a lot of consultancies being set up."

Bah, humbug. Mr MacKinnon, who cut his teeth advising Nigel Lawson and Margaret Thatcher at the Treasury, seems a jolly nice chap and I wish him and Mr Burke well.

John Redwood and his followers on the Europhobic right of the Conservative Party have found a new champion in the unlikely form of Robert Chote, FT economics editor and former writer for this very organ.

Mr Redwood, who was ordered to withdraw a press release last week condemning the City's award to Chancellor Helmut Kohl of the freedom of the City of London, has issued another one. This release refers to a "damning article appearing in Prospect magazine [which] reveals just how desperate personal relations are at the Treasury. Robert Chote is a highly respected Financial Times journalist and his accusations must be taken seriously."

Mr Chote, who wrote about the friction between Gordon Brown and some of his Treasury colleagues, was bemused by this unexpected accolade, not least because the Daily Mail had already described the same article as clearly emanating from No 10.

Referring to Gordon Brown's spin doctor, Mr Chote sighed: "I don't know how far up Charlie Whelan's Christmas card list I was before this, but I must be further down it now."

The Berkeley Playhouse, the Mayfair lap-dancing club chaired by John Paul, is hot to trot - in City parlance that is. The club, whose shares are traded on the Ofex market, issued a statement yesterday saying it has received an approach that may lead to an offer. The Berkeley has won itself a loyal following thanks to its speciality of providing "table dancers" who perform a strip-teasing dance for members. Sadly, this has yet to filter through to the bottom line and the company is expected to make a loss in the year to December 1997.

Mr Paul wants to open clubs in Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow and Paris but lacks the funds to do so. He is therefore looking for a deal to help bankroll his plans.

It is understood the club is in talks with five possible buyers and a further statement is due next week. The budding buyers are thought to include at least one quoted leisure group, a rival club and a consortium of wealthy individuals - all keen table-dancing fans, no doubt.

Mr Paul is also hoping to open a basement in the Playhouse on London's Berkeley Street. This would take him back to his Sixties and Seventies roots when he was running trendy hang-outs such as Wedgies and Tokyo Joe.

The World Bank is advertising for economists in the latest edition of The Economist: "Areas of desired expertise include: crisis management...."

Sounds like the Asian crisis hasn't quietened down as much as some people would like to think.

Sir Barry Stephens, chairman of Siebe, Simon Engineering and Premier Oil, is about to retire, opening the way for a fair amount of chair shuffling in City boardrooms

Can one really believe that Sir Barry is finally hanging up his boardroom boots after all this time? The 70-year-old is relinquishing the key to the Siebe executive washroom at the end of the week. His imminent departure is soon to be announced at Premier, the independent oil exploration company, as well as Simon Engineering. He might seem long in the tooth, given the current corporate governance fashion, but let's remember his predecessor at Premier, Roland Shaw had to be removed against his will at the age of 73.

Sir Barry's successor at Siebe is the slightly more spring-chicken-like Sir Colin Marshall, already chairman of about a billion other companies, including Inchcape. But the callow youth will not be able to take up his post at the engineering company until he vacates the top spot at the CBI in the summer. So who will fill in during the meantime? Into the breach steps Sir Philip Beck, current Siebe board journeyman.

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