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People & Business: Lloyd's triumph in black

ALL THOUGHTS of the dwindling rouble and crashing hedge funds were banished on Sunday as the City's finest battled it out for the annual Reuters City Sevens.

The rugby-fest at Richmond Athletic Ground has been organised by Keith Sheppard ever since he set up the tournament in 1973. Having spent 30 years in the City, mostly with Hoare & Co, Mr Sheppard is now retired.

Lloyd's of London won the Shield for the second year, beating Warburg Dillion Read in the final. This prompted some muttering amongst the throng that the chaps from Lime Street enjoyed an advantage in that they can select players from any company in the whole of the Lloyd's insurance market.

Such whingeing (and it didn't come from the gallant Warburgs) makes Mr Sheppard laugh: "T'was ever thus. Halifax were drawing on people from their Wales office.

"Lloyd's have a very fine tradition to hold up (they won in 1995 as well) and if they turn up with some players, I'm not going to turn them away."

Mr Sheppard added that the Stock Exchange team had always provided a valuable service by picking people from "smaller firms", as he tactfully called them.

On the day itself, Warburg beat HSBC 42-19 in the semi-final, and then lost 27-nil in the final to Lloyd's.

But because Lloyd's were wearing black shirts and got to the final first, Warburgs, who were wearing a similar shade of very dark blue, had to borrow HSBC's shirts, described by one onlooker as featuring a "dinky red and white check".

Rob Henley, who organised Warburg's side, described the HSBC shirts as "sweaty".

Jeremy Guscott of Bath, England and the TV Gladiators, gave out the prizes, having missed out on playing against Gloucester on Saturday through injury.

IT'S GOOD to see that the University of Birmingham, my alma mater, is keeping up with the times. Its International Finance Group has invited me to its annual lecture on "Bust Banks: Global View". Liliana Rojas-Suarez, chief economist for Latin America at Deutsche Bank Securities, will be telling it like it is on 22 October.

TELSPEC, the Kent-based developer of telecoms equipment, said yesterday that Jonathan Paget, group chief executive, has left the group "by mutual consent", effective immediately.

The company has formed a committee of the board to run things until a new head can be found. The committee includes Donald Muir (group finance director) and Eddie Hughes (group manufacturing director). It will implement a programme of cost-cutting and restructuring.

David Ball (chairman of Nortel) and John Westhead (non-executive deputy chairman of Bowthorpe) will also sit on the committee in their capacity as non-executive directors.

As a stop-gap measure, Mr Muir will assume the chief executive's role in Telspec Europe. Mr Hughes will continue to run for Telspec Australia.

SOUTH LONDON maestros Crystal Palace recently signed the first ever Chinese footballers to a UK side, presenting novel problems for the club's legal advisers, SJ Berwin.

The club's owner Mark Goldberg, who made his fortune in IT recruitment, and its manager Terry Venables, were both keen to get the Chinese duo on board. At pounds 1.35m for the pair, they were a bargain by British standards.

But first Nicola Kerr, a partner in SJ Berwin, had to provide the British labour authorities with the evidence to justify the proposed transfers of Fan Zhiyi, the captain of the Chinese national side, and international defender Sun Jihai.

Ms Kerr told The Lawyer: "Although Fan and Sun are superstars in China, it was clear that Britain's football governing bodies - the Football Association, the Football League and the Professional Footballers Association - had insufficient information on the state of the Chinese game."

This meant Ms Kerr had to liaise with Palace, currently mid-table with Nationwide Division One, as well as with the various Chinese "footy" authorities in preparing an application to the Overseas Labour Service in London.