People & Business: Rifkind seizes new job prospects in oil business

Malcom Rifkind has got a new job prospecting for oil in the former Soviet Union. Well, okay, the former secretary of state for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs has in fact been made a non-executive director of Ramco Energy, the AIM-listed independent oil company based in Aberdeen.

Ramco has also announced a recommended share offer for JKX Oil & Gas, a UK-based energy company which concentrates on the Ukraine and Georgia. Ramco said: "Mr Rifkind's experience in the areas in which JKX operates, as well as in the former Soviet Union and eastern Europe as a whole, will be invaluable towards building Ramco's business in those regions."

The owlish former Conservative Minister said that he is looking forward to helping to "build substantial shareholder value".

Fresh from defeating the carpetbaggers, the Nationwide Building Society's chairman Charles Nunneley is stepping down as chairman of Imro, the investment regulator, in favour of Douglas McDougall, joint senior partner of Baillie Gifford.

Mr Nunneley is retiring after 11 years on Imro's board, although he will still have quite a lot on his plate. He will continue as chairman of both Nationwide and the National Trust.

Mr McDougall has been with Baillie Gifford, the Edinburgh-based fund managers, since 1965. He is also chairman of the Association of Investment Trust Companies.

Another chairman is also stepping down, Robert Malpas of Cookson, the precious metals to electronics materials group.

He is being replaced by the larger than life, cigar smoking and ebullient American Richard Oster. Mr Oster, a former American football player, is currently chief executive of, having sold his brass company AJ Oster to Cookson in 1980.

Cookson's new chief executive will be Stephen Howard, who has beaten Don Carcieri, the other joint managing director at Cookson, to the top job. Mr Carcieri will leave the group at the end of December, with a hefty payout to comfort him: he is on a two-year contract with a basic salary of pounds 383,000 a year.

Mr Malpas said yesterday that Mr Carcieri's departure had nothing to do with problems in the electronic materials division last year - the division for which Mr Carcieri was responsible.

Referring to the two new appointments, Mr Malpas enthused: "It's continuity. Its seamless. We've got two highly competent people. Richard continues to apply his indefatigable leadership and continues to lead the group to superior performance. He will be a highly involved chairman."

Intriguingly, Mr Malpas revealed yesterday that his name is a more common place name in Europe than you might think; there are two villages in Spain called "Malpas", one on the north coast of Majorca, the other between Saragossa and Barcelona; there are two in the UK, one in Cheshire and one in Devon, and there is also a Malpas in Switzerland.

There is another fascinating family detail Mr Malpas might not want to broadcast in his role as co-chairman of Eurotunnel; Malpas in Latin means "bad crossing".

Quote of the Week goes to Michael Prideaux, head press spokesman for BAT, on Tuesday: "I've never given a journalist a scoop in my life."

The occasion for this boast was the announcement of BAT's acquisition of Mexico's biggest cigarette company, Cigarerra La Moderna, for $1.7bn. Mr Prideaux told one of my colleagues a week ago that a deal in Latin America was imminent, and when said colleague went off and found out which company was involved Mr Prideaux pleaded for silence, saying: ``You'll get a much better story if you hold off."

So we did - and then on Tuesday BAT announced the deal - with no warning from Mr Prideaux at all. When the colleague remonstrated with the BAT spokesman, he exclaimed:

"If you'd run that story I wouldn't be here today."

Seton Healthcare is giving the elderly a chance to play golf alongside Tony Jacklin at Goodwood in Sussex. Seton's chief executive Iain Cater tells me that the company is co-sponsoring the PGA European Seniors Tour this September to the tune of pounds 25,000. This is the first time Seton has sponsored such an event: "We're dipping a toe in the water," Mr Cater said.

And in a separate move Seton's sports division has prepared for next year's football World Cup in France by ordering 250,000 footballs.