People & Business: City suits rally round to support fox hunting

Evelyn de Rothschild: In favour of hunt meetings
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The Independent Online
I wonder how many City people there were among the 100,000-odd crowd which turned out for yesterday's Countryside Rally in Hyde Park in support of hunting?

Quite a few, judging from the number of people with "I was in Hyde Park" stickers on their lapels at Bank Tube Station at around 3 o'clock.

However, press reports that Evelyn de Rothschild had sent staff at NM Rothschild a memo urging them to attend was greeted with resignation by the investment bank's press spokesman: "We can't confirm the numbers that went - we were all too busy working."

According to other sources, it is understood that Sir Evelyn was merely bringing the matter to the attention of staff, and it was up to them whether they attended the meeting.

There was a similar reaction from Savills, the estate agency chain that specialises in country houses. It has 10 offices in London, and its head office is in easy walking distance of Hyde Park.

A spokeswoman for Savills said that while "many hundreds" of staff had gone, there had been no directive commanding them to go. "It's a very difficult one, really. The company is made up of individuals, and we decided we didn't want a company presence. But we are very much involved with the land."

The Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce - or the RSA to you - has appointed its first woman director, Penny Egan. It already has a woman chairman, the television cook Pru Leith.

If you didn't already know, the RSA is popular among business people, since it is heavily involved in promoting better management in UK companies, and is seen as an excellent vehicle for meeting other like-minded people, ie networking. It has a fellowship of 21,000.

Ms Egan is in the forefront of this drive, having been the RSA's Programme Development Director when it published the "Tomorrow's Company" report. This was the management study which brought the idea of stakeholding into the public gaze.

Ms Egan, the first woman director in the RSA's 243-year history, has the experience to give it an even higher profile, having worked as a press spokesperson in 10 Downing Street for Harold Wilson and Jim Callaghan.

Congratulations to my old mate Roger Oldfield, a receiver with accountants KPMG, who won the trophy for "fastest chief operating officer" in an annual 3.5-mile race on Wednesday.

Overall he actually came third, in 22 minutes 40 seconds, in the 1997 Chase Corporate Challenge, behind Matt Barnes of Barclays Bank and Zara Hyde of Esso UK. But Roger, 49, is in effect head of KPMG's UK corporate recovery practice, thus a "CEO", and considering his age an example to us all.

"I was really pleased," he said yesterday. "I came third last year. I don't go running every day - I just seem to have a natural ability for it."

Mr Oldfield is fiendishly clever at selling property out of bust companies. He managed to sell on the Broadgate office complex in the City when Mountleigh went belly up. In 1990 he almost persuaded me to buy a flat in Bow Quarter, a development in east London. Yesterday he was relaxing at the Loch Lomond International Golf Classic as a guest of a company which bought some land off him in 1987.

The client in question bought the Stockton heavy engineering works on which Margaret Thatcher walked for that famous photograph of industrial desolation in the 1980s. It now houses a thriving business park.

But Mr Oldfield may be finally slowing up. His fellow partner Tony Thompson tells me he's just taken up golf.

The Rugby Football Union (RFU) isn't the only institution suffering a "Peasants' Revolt". The election for a new independent financial adviser (IFA) representative on the PIA board has brought forth Roddy Kohn, an independent independent, so to speak, who won by a whisker. He beat the man anointed by the PIA board, Michael Bryant, who has just retired after 25 years with Rathbone Group.

Perhaps Mr Bryant should have paid more attention to a motto: "A PIA recommendation is the kiss of death."