People & Business: Biotech springs a surprise with its new finance chief

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The Independent Online
British Biotech has surprised observers by going outside the pharmaceuticals industry for its new finance director, the previous incumbent, James Noble, having stomped off earlier this year. Malcolm Fallen's most recent job has been finance director of British Telecom's Personal Communications Division, but Dr Keith McCullagh, British Biotech's chief executive, insists the two companies are "analogous" since they both invest heavily in research and development.

The precocious Mr Fallen, 37, who read economics at Cambridge, is also valuable to the company because of his cross-border experience, says Mr McCullagh, gained while working with Bowater, now Rexam.

Mr Fallen trained as a chartered accountant with Arthur Andersen when he left Cambridge, then went to work for UBS Phillips & Drew's corporate finance department. He then worked his way up at Bowater, and in 1992 became regional finance director, European Printing and Engineering, where he led a restructuring of the pounds 300m business. Sickening, isn't it.

Brampton Mundy, 47, also has a new job, but his is in the middle of nowhere.

Perhaps that's being unfair to Almaty, the capital of Kazakstan, a former bit of the old Soviet Union. But not much. The Hong-kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) has just appointed Mr Brampton head of its representative office in Almaty.

Kazakstan is a huge stretch of territory slap-bang in the middle of the former Soviet land mass, stretching from the Caspian Sea in the west to Mongolia in the east, almost all of which is "unvegetated hot steppe", it says in my atlas.

The people who live there - roughly the same number as live in Greater London - have recently seen bits of it transformed into a recreation of the 19th century Yukon, with fortunes made and lost from oil and gas exploration.

So at least Mr Brampton should have some interesting customers. Formerly deputy chief operating officer in HSBC's Philippines operation, Mr Brampton has spent the last six months in Kazakstan drawing up a strategic plan for the bank, and learning the local language - Kazak. While he's there, he can reflect that at least there's no chance of it being handed back to China

Volvo is taking over the the Whitbread Round the World Race from Whitbread from next year and will be a sponsor in the 1997-1998 event. So why is the Swedish car maker calling it "The Whitbread Round The World Race for the Volvo Trophy"?

Volvo's chief executive officer, Leif Johansson, was quick to add yesterday that it was likely to rename the competition The Volvo Round the World Race in the future, but even so, this year's event should get some kind of prize of its own for Most Cumbersome Title.

Volvo has agreed with Whitbread to sponsor the 1997-98 event, which begins on September 21 this year and will be called "The Whitbread Round the World Race for the Volvo trophy."

The race has been held once every four years since 1973, and Mr Johansson is confident it will "provide Volvo with unique opportunities to achieve global exposure of our brand name in situations which will enhance our positioning among Volvo's important target groups".

Earlier this year the maker of boring but safe cars announced it would no longer sponsor show-jumping events. Meanwhile Whitbread chief executive David Thomas said the decision to pull out of the famous race followed a review of corporate sponsorship and promotional activity.

"We have an immensely strong brand portfolio in leisure, drinks and hospitality but the fact of the matter is that we sell very little with the name Whitbread actually on it," he said.

After circling idly looking for a new landing spot, Peter Jones, former head of corporate Affairs at British Airways, will touch down next month at Bupa with the new title of Director of Corporate Communications.

Although airlines and healthcare have little superficially in common, both are people businesses and 48-year old Mr Jones will take care of external and internal PR, keeping Bupa's 8,500 employees informed as well as putting the case for private medicine working alongside the NHS.

Bupa is hard on the acquisition trail, gobbling up private medical facilities at every opportunity. And a warning to potential "carpetbaggers"; Bupa is strongly committed to its provident status, so there is no point in taking out a private medical insurance policy or moving into a private hospital bed in the hope of another building society-style windfall.