People & Business

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The Independent Online
All merger negotiations are haunted by the tricky subject of Who Gets The Top Job, none more so than the current talks between accountancy behemoths KPMG and Ernst & Young. Mike Rake, the chief operating officer in charge of KPMG's side of the talks, ruffled various feathers on 24 October when he sent a firm-wide e-mail to KPMG colleagues saying he had got the top job of senior partner in the newly merged firm.

The memo, sent to all UK partners, also said that E&Y's ebullient head boy, Nick Land, would become UK chief executive. However, when Mr Rake sent his memo no vote had yet been taken on the merger, as this week's Accountancy Age, the bean-counters' weekly, points out. Three days after the first memo Mr Rake sent a second one saying that, of course, these decisions were all subject to a vote by partners.

A KPMG spokesman was unimpressed by the suggestion yesterday that any KPMG partners could have been upset by Mr Rake's eagerness with the news of his ascent. "It's absolute twaddle. There is no story," he said. "Mr Rake was going on holiday to Spain when he sent the first memo late on a Friday afternoon. He then realised he should point out that partners would vote on it, and sent another early on the Monday morning."

So that's all right then. I'm sure all partners will be eager to rubber stamp Mr Rake's elevation when they're given the chance.

Not many people can claim to have been born in Manhattan, attended King's College, Cambridge, have driven the night shift in a New York taxi, own an extensive Roman coincollection and run their own PR firm in the City. Henry Gewanter is that man. Our fast-talking hero has just jumped ship from the City consultancy Financial Dynamics to set up on his own with a firm called Positive Profile.

There's just Henry and one other at the moment, and he's going on a hiring spree for staff - and clients. He already has a dozen clients, he said, drawn from his days as head of FD's financial services side. Henry told me his new firm will be "a leading player in fast growth areas such as the financial services sector, including action in the consolidation trend amongst investment trusts".

He describes himself as "an expert in disaster containment and control," which may owe something to his eight years in County Natwest, which straddled the Blue Arrow episode. He is a product of Bronx High School of Science in New York, which has produced a higher number of Nobel prize winners than any other educational institution, he said. So what's he doing in City PR?

Oh God, its started. I've just received my first Christmas card of 1997, from the Association of Unit Trusts and Investment Funds (Autif). Just to rub it in, I've also unpacked my first 1998 pocket diary, courtesy of NM Rothschild. I can feel the party hangovers already.

Sam Chisholm's farewell agm as managing director and chief executive of BSkyB may be one the company's chairman, Gerry Robinson, would prefer to forget. As David Chance, BSkyB's soon-to-retire deputy managing director, told shareholders of BSkyB's plans for digital TV, Mr Robinson attempted to show a video to illustrate the speech. To no avail. Shareholders started to titter as Mr Robinson struggled with the video apparatus. Rupert Murdoch, meanwhile, looked on in stony silence.

Finally Mr Robinson gave up and took to the stand to tell the meeting: "We have got an alternative plan where we act out the video." The shareholders loved it. Mr Murdoch was not amused.

Co-operation Ireland, a charity set up in 1987 to encourage greater contacts and understanding between the communities north and south of the border, is launching a lawyers' support group in London this week. Supported by Allied Irish Bank, The Lawyer magazine and London law firms Collyer-Bristow and Magrath & Co, the launch has attracted a clutch of high profile names. Supporters include Michael Ashe QC, Michael Julian, Keith Oliver (Kevin Maxwell's lawyer) and Richard Ferguson QC, who was involved in the Guildford Six and Rose West cases.

Michael Keane, an executive director of Morgan Stanley in London and a council member of Co-operation Ireland, said such initiatives are aimed at bringing people together from all communities and dispelling the prejudices which have underpinned the Troubles. "If we can change attitudes then we can build a lasting peace in Ireland for the next generation," Mr Keane said.

The charity's chairman is Terry Neill, managing partner of Andersen Consulting, and its deputy chairman Professor George Bain, Principal of London Business School.