People & Business: Law firm mops up after a `rainmaker' departs

ASHURST Morris Crisp, the City law firm, has moved swiftly to fill the hole created when Stephen Mostyn-Williams defected to a rival firm as head of banking a month ago. The firm has promoted Gonzalo Fernandez as a partner in the banking department.

Mr Mostyn-Williams, a flamobyant, designer- clad father of six, took three Ashurst partners with him to US firm Shearman & Sterling. This caused a great gnashing of teeth at Ashurst's, since Mr Mostyn-Williams was the main link man with Goldman Sachs and Bankers Trust, two of Ashurst's choicest clients. Indeed, he was often referred to as a "rainmaker". To add insult to injury, the two lucrative accounts have followed Mr Mostyn-Williams to the American firm.

Ashurst's has traditionally been strong in the equity markets and wanted to extend this strength into the debt markets - something Mr Mostyn-Williams did brilliantly - but tensions then developed with Ashurst's existing equity team, apparently.

BOB DIAMOND, boss of Barclays Capital, Barclays Bank's investment banking arm, has been bombarding his workforce in Canary Wharf and his colleagues in the Barclays empire with e-mails over the last few weeks. This wouldn't be so noteworthy if it wasn't for the fact that Mr Diamond is, theoretically at least, on holiday. He should be sunning himself on Nantucket Island, a fashionable investment banking vacation retreat just off Cape Cod on the US East Coast. But, as his minions back in Blighty are painfully aware, he seems to be perpetually bent over a laptop.

FURTHER evidence of American e-mail mania is provided by Paul Krugman, the famous US economist from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). We e-mailed him this week asking if he would like to do an article for us. Mr Krugman replied by e-mail that he was keen on the idea, but that since he was on holiday on "the Great Barrier Reef" he wouldn't be able to do it for two or three weeks. Do these people ever rest?

BY SOME bizarre mischance a highly private and confidential letter from a publishing company to Marjorie Scardino, chief executive of Pearson Group, has found its way onto my desk. The letter is from Chris Morrison, managing director of Evandale Publishing, of High Holborn, London, and is dated 18 August.

In the letter Mr Morrison attacks the Financial Times group, a Pearson subsidiary, for planning to launch a newsletter titled "European Retail Analyst" in competition with Evandale's own nine-year-old publication "European Retail".

Mr Morrison writes: "This move follows the launch about two years ago of the FT's `Virtual Finance' newsletter, nine months after Evandale Publishing started producing its own publication, interesting [sic] also called `Virtual Finance International'.

"Those of a suspicious mind might discern a copycat mentality within your group, and if this exists I suggest that you step on it immediately since it brings very little credit on your organisation."

Pearson says it hasn't yet received Mr Morrison's letter, and could I fax a copy of it to them? The things we diarists have to do.

ROWAN LEVY of Benfleet, Essex, has written suggesting a novel cure for the Millenium Bug: "One of the solutions may be to perpetuate the century - just as computer code ... does so. Instead of risking havoc in a technologically reliant society we could protect ourselves until certain of a safe passage by re-living 1900, 1901...". So instead of having to reprogramme all those computers, we just chug along and pretend it's the beginning of the 20th century all over again. Just how Mr Levy aims to make money out of this proposal I'm not sure, although he does mention copyrighting the logo "01.01.Pc" and putting it on t-shirts and the like. This is all very well, but what happens when we get to 1914, for instance? Do we march off to the trenches again?

AND FINALLY, please welcome the new chief executive of DGAA Homelife (the charity formerly known as the Distressed Gentlefolk's Aid Association) - the aptly named Jonathan Welfare.