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People & Business: Maharishi gets a flexible friend

WHEN John Lennon sang "Sexy Sadie" on the Beatles' White Album in 1968, he cannot have imagined that 30 years later the man he lampooned in the song, the Maharishi Yogi, would be issuing his own credit card to the British public.

OK, the new Visa card is not being issued by the Maharishi himself, but by the school he founded 12 years ago just outside Skelmersdale in Lancashire.

The Maharishi School is launching a fundraising credit card via an American corporation, Beneficial Bank, to help finance its expansion.

And, far from being some hotbed of hippie-trippy antics, the 100-pupil Maharishi School has excellent academic standards. It ascribes this to its teaching of Transcendental Meditation (TM), practised daily by both staff and pupils.

The head teacher, Derek Cassels, claims that scientific research has demonstrated that TM enhances creativity, energy and intelligence.

Back in the material world, the new card charges no annual fee and an introductory annual rate of interest of 9.9 per cent for balances transferred from other credit cards for six months. The regular interest rate is 19.9 per cent APR.

It'll be interesting to see how the school markets this product. It could become the cool card to be seen with down the Camden market. Now where are those joss sticks...

IAN SPENCE, a pioneering IT analyst at expanding investment bank Granville, has upped stumps and gone off to rivals Panmure Gordon.

Mr Spence it was who last February launched Gigabuyte, an annual 175- page round-up of the IT sector, and then Megabuyte, a monthly equivalent.

Speaking from Granville's offices yesterday, Mr Spence insisted it was an "amicable split". "I've had a good four years at Granville, and I'm leaving a good IT team here."

That IT team has recently been augmented by Roger Phillips, who arrived from Investors Chronicle. Mr Spence also worked at the IC for 18 months, following his graduation in 1992 from Manchester Polytechnic with a degree in Accountancy and Finance.

Roger Richards also recently joined Granville from Investors Chronicle as household goods and smaller companies analyst. I'm surprised there's anyone left at the IC at all.

Meanwhile Mr Spence starts three months' gardening leave. He's certainly picked some nice weather for it. "I'm trying to buy a flat, and then going on holiday," he says smugly.

BARONESS SMITH of Gilmorehill, widow of the late John Smith, has joined the Hakluyt Foundation, which helps British companies discover investment opportunities overseas.

So who or what is a Hakluyt? Christopher James, managing director of the foundation and a former Foreign Office hand, explains: "Richard Hakluyt was a 16th-century geographer, born in London, who sat and listened to the tales told by returning explorers such as Drake and Frobisher. Then he wrote them up as 'Hakluyt's Voyages'. He was one of the principle inspirations for the East India Company."

The foundation was set up in 1995 by the late Sir Fitzroy Maclean, an intrepid explorer himself who was parachuted into Yugoslavia in the Second World War to act as the Allies' main link with Tito, the partisan leader and subsequent Communist boss. Lady Smith was a close friend of Sir Fitzroy for many years, sharing his close interest in Russia and Eastern Europe.

Following Sir Fitzroy's death last year Sir Peter Holmes, formerly senior managing director of Royal Dutch Shell Group, took over as president of the foundation, which is based in London's West End and only has half- a-dozen salaried staff, relying on 50 to 60 external experts to provide advice to companies.

The main idea, Mr James says, is to supply the kind of information about overseas cultures, and what conditions British companies may meet, which government or industry may not provide.

Mr James adds that they have had a problem deciding just how "Hakluyt", an old Hereford name, should be pronounced. "We settled on 'Hack-let', although apparently you can also say 'Hack-lee-oot' or 'Hack-lee-et'."

THE ECOLOGY Building Society, specialists in environmental and ecological money issues, has appointed a senior commercial lawyer as a non-executive director. Malcolm Lynch runs his own firm of the same name and is one of the leading charity lawyers in the North-east.

The society was formed in 1981 and is based in Crosshills, West Yorkshire. It aims to provide finance to buy properties with an ecological payback, especially dilapidated houses that would otherwise be ignored.

Mr Lynch is also company secretary of the UK Social Investment Forum, the Foundation for Credit Counselling and the Co-operative Law Association.

RANK GROUP has appointed Oliver Stocken, currently group finance director of Barclays, to the board as a non-executive director from 1 October. Mr Stocken, 56, is also a non-executive director of MEPC.