PEOPLE & BUSINESS

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The Independent Online
LORD SIMON of Highbury, minister for trade and competitiveness in Europe, was not involved in the rioting at the weekend outside the Arsenal football ground.

Very keen supporter he may be - taking his Highbury title in honour of the club - but he was not one of those fans who celebrated their club's double cup and league win by dismantling a London bus.

How do we know? Because the former BP chairman was not even in the country at the time, unlike Cardinal Hume and George Carey who definitely were.

No, Lord Simon did not even watch the Gunners blow apart Newcastle United at Wembley. Why? Because he was dealing with something much more fun: chairing the EU's internal market council meeting in Brussels.

Not so work-conscious but not a rioter either, was Lord Simon's union counterpart, Roger "minimum wage" Lyons, general secretary of white collar union, MSF.

He willingly admits to cheering Arsenal on Saturday along with his four sons. He was also one of the 300,000 faithful who turned out celebrate the team's homecoming to Islington the next day.

Billed to appear on Sunday's Money Programme, Mr Lyons was forced to don suit and shirt for the recorded TV interview. He says: "I changed into my Arsenal supporters shorts and shirt in the BBC car park straight afterwards before racing back to North London to join the celebrations."

THE ENTHUSIASM on the streets was met with a torrent of activity on the Stock Exchange's junior market, Ofex, where shares in Arsenal football club trade. John Jenkins, whose company of the same name makes a market in Ofex shares, says six shares were bought or sold in three separate transactions.

That sounds laughably piffling but it is big business on the sub-AIM market where shares slumber for weeks without trade. So the bad news is if you want to buy into the Gooners it will cost you between pounds 2,700 and pounds 2,900, a full pounds 100 up on Friday.

MORE interested in Scotland's forthcoming World Cup hopes than Arsenal is Regent Pacific boss Jim Mellon, who opens a giant conference today in London on Russian and east European investment.

Regent is still more associated in the public mind with east Asia and in particular Hong Kong, where it is listed, rather than the former Soviet Union. In fact Regent sold most of its assets in Asia 18 months ago before the currency and economic turmoil. But although it has over $2bn invested in eastern Europe, Mr Mellon is still an Asian man and is starting to rebuild in the region.

He claims his only remaining Hong Kong hedge fund is up 50 per cent against a market down 50 per cent. This is giving him investor clout for a vulture fund established in January to snap up distressed Asian assets.

"We put $40m into the first tranche but expect to put in $500m for the second," he says cheerfully. So what is his view on the seemingly doomed Indonesian economy?

"We have three guys in Indonesia looking at opportunities. Its very tragic what is happening but we think the situation is at a turning point. Suharto will not last two weeks. It's a good time to buy, assets are very cheap," he explains.

Mellon is nearly as keen on Indonesia as he is on running. He completed the Paris marathon six weeks ago and is already in training for his next one in Florence. He has a family tradition to keep up because his running mate is his father, who at 69 is still able to run 26 miles at a little over four hours.

ONE CAN only think with foreboding who the latest recruit to the Bank of England's supervision board supports. Gottfried Bruder is the first foreign national appointed to this worthy group which in June moves from Old Lady to Financial Services Authority control.

Mr Bruder, whose groundbreaking appointment was announced yesterday, was chief executive of Al Ahli Bank in the Middle East until recently but one can guess that it is not Kuwait that he cheers on the pitch. More ominous are his past years with Commerzbank in Frankfurt and Dusseldorf.

MEANWHILE no sporting metaphors were required for another new appointment, this time at British American Tobacco, where Bill Owens has joined the board. Mr Owens' prized experience comes from his former military career as Colin Powell's deputy chief of staff. BAT needs firepower for its titanic struggle with government over a smokers compensation package. As chairman Martin Broughton quipped: "This really shows it's war in the US."

LESS DRAMATIC but significant changes are taking place at London Merchant Securities, founder shareholder in British Satellite Broadcasting and owner of the Angel Centre in London.

Lord Rayne has handed over executive duties to two joint managing directors, Nick Driver and Robert Rayne. Another non-executive board member seems to have anticipated changes to the House of Lords by the Blair government. His name: Lord Remnant.

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