People & Business

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Tricky business, being a Government minister with a highly paid City solicitor as a husband, as Tessa Jowell, the public health minister, is. The husband in question is David Mills, a partner of the City law firm Withers, and, incidentally, the brother in law of Barbara Mills, Director of Public Prosecutions and a former head of the Serious Fraud Office.

Questions have been asked about Ms Jowell's part in the decision to exempt Formula One from the ban on tobacco sponsorship because Mr Mills was once a director of the Formula One company, Benetton Formula. This may be only the start of her problems however, for Mr Mills has a client list as long as your arm just riddled with possibilities for conflict of interest.

Mr Mills is certainly no stranger to the media spotlight. Back in 1996, the English and the Italian newspapers were on Mr Mills' trail when it was revealed that the offices of CMM, the corporate services company of which he was a director, had been raided by the Serious Fraud Office at the request of the Italian authorities.

Although there was no question of Mr Mills or CMM being involved in anything untoward, CMM reportedly had in its possession at the time a number of documents relating to a company controlled by Silvio Berlusconi, the then Italian premier. The Italian authorities were then investigating allegations that Mr Berlusconi was involved in a pounds 51m fraud, using money from his company Fininvest to bribe tax inspectors and politicians.

Withers is primarily a family law firm, according to the magazine for lawyers Legal Business , with "a great private client base". Many of these clients are Italian, a factor that is at least in part due to Mr Mills' excellent Italian connections. Ms Jowell presumably has her fingers crossed that there is never a public health scare involving Parmesan cheese or spaghetti.

At least in part through his association with his long-standing client Mr Berlusconi, Mr Mills has also had his fingers in all sorts of media pies. He was once a director of Leopard Communications and Reteitalia UK Limited (now called Libra UK Communications), both film companies.

John Willis, former director of programmes at Channel 4 until he was pipped at the post for the chief executive's job by Michael Jackson, has finally chosen a new employer. After reportedly turning down offers from both Granada and Yorkshire Television, Mr Willis has agreed to take charge of network productions at United Broadcasting & Entertainment, which has been responsible for, amongst others, Channel 5's flagship programme The Jack Docherty Show.

But this will not be the first time that Mr Willis has come into contact with the folks at Channel 5. In 1996, Channel 4's then director of programmes put rival Channel 5's nose out of joint by winning the race to secure rights for popular US shows ER and Friends.

Let's hope that Mr Willis's new business associates at the UK's youngest terrestrial TV channel have short memories.

Fred Goodwin, the 39-year-old head of the Scottish bank Clydesdale, came into work yesterday finding that his workload had more or less doubled overnight. In addition to his current responsibilities at Clydesdale, Mr Goodwin was yesterday made chief executive of Clydesdale's sister organisation, the Yorkshire Bank. But the energetic Mr Goodwin didn't seem too fazed by all. "I'm looking forward to the challenge," he said.

Mr Goodwin, who proudly unveiled a strong set of first-half figures for both Yorkshire and Clydesdale yesterday, is no stranger to late nights, somewhat opaque banking practices and complicated asset trails, skills which will no doubt serve him well in his new role. Before joining Clydesdale in 1995, Mr Goodwin, then partner in City accountancy firm Touche Ross, was looking after the liquidation of BCCI. "I still bear the scars," he chuckled yesterday. "I met some interesting people," he added, "though I may be unlikely to come across them again!"

It seems that traders at London's futures exchange Liffe have followed the advice of recent research published by Glasgow University, and turned to computer games as a means of relaxation. The game of choice for stressed out dealers, it seems, is a computerised quiz show known as "You don't know Jack" .

The game has proved so popular that traders yesterday persuaded its UK publishers, BMG Interactive, to sponsor a lunch-time match between Liffe traders and some of their pals in a City pub. The company sportingly promised 50 quid to all semi-finalists and a bit of cash and some computer software to the winner. So who was the king egg-head? Paul Robinson of TNT Futures, according to a spokesperson for BMG.

Comments