People & Business: Singer's chief executive is a dancer too

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The Independent Online
Here's a fascinating picture of John Hodson, chief executive of Singer & Friedlander, the merchant bank, participating in a rehearsal for a new arts project which the bank is sponsoring.

The Miracles Project has been set up to encourage young people in London to get involved in the performing arts. Nearly 1,000 young Londoners will perform in a Royal Gala Performance at Royal Albert Hall on 24 April. The National Heritage Arts Sponsorship Scheme will match pound for pound whatever Singer puts in.

Mr Hodson said: "We've gone for this because it is a different kind of sponsorship. It carries on a tradition at the bank of music and arts patronage, of encouraging new ideas."

One person, however, has reservations about Mr Hodson's involvement. His 18-year-old daughter, espying this photo, wailed: "Oh no, Dad, nobody's going to see this, are they?" I don't know - I think Hodson Senior comes over rather well.

City spin doctors are gnashing their teeth at rumours that ever-youthful Tim Trotter, chairman of Ludgate Communications, a PR firm, has pocketed pounds 6m from last Friday's sale of the company to American advertising behemoth McCann-Erickson.

Mr Trotter laughs at such a suggestion: "I can't complain, but I can't comment on what I've received or what others have received."

What will make rivals even more envious is that McCann is planning to rebrand all its global financial and corporate PR under the Ludgate label. Thus Ludgate will expand from its three-legged stool of London, New York and Hong Kong to a possible 110 countries where McCann operates.

Other lucky beneficiaries of McCann's largess include David Simpson, an ex-Observer employee who is chief executive of Ludgate's London office, Kay Breakstone, head of the New York outfit, and Martin Spurrier in Hong Kong.

As for institutional investors, CinVen backed Ludgate for five years before selling out to Granville last July. Both did well out of Ludgate, said Mr Trotter, who concluded: "We've made two venture capital firms very happy."

City bar-room gossip has it that former chairman of Dresdner Kleinwort Benson, Simon Robertson, who resigned in a huff last Friday, is off to BZW.

Sources close to the Barclays-owned investment bank pooh-pooh the idea as "just idle gossip. Anyway, he's away skiing". A source closer to Mr Robertson said: "He's around London at the moment." Wherever he is, we await his new resting place with baited breath.

If he does go to BZW, he will meet a stream of analysts going in the opposite direction. Chris Grant, a buildings analyst, is the third analyst to leave BZW since I wrote about the exit of merchant bank specialist Philip Gibbs last week. Mr Grant joined NatWest yesterday, obviously undeterred by any pounds 50m holes hitting his bonus.

Mark Rubenstein, financials, has gone to Schroders, while Charles Winston, breweries, has also flown the coop.

The crisis in Albania dominated proceedings at yesterday's launch of NatWest Bank's pensions manifesto, "A Changing Nation".

NatWest is launching the document because it feels that "something must be done" following the pensions mis-selling scandal. No doubt it will be launching a "traded options manifesto" on mispricing soon (sorry, I couldn't resist it).

Patrick Minford of Liverpool University, formerly a Government "wise person", told the audience in Bishopsgate that the UK's Paye scheme is "a state-run pyramid scheme" of the type that has gone so horribly wrong in Albania.

Professor Minford said there was no prospect of a young person paying Paye ever getting his or her money back on retirement.

Professor George Yarrow, a privatisation expert from Hertford College, Oxford, then ploughed in, saying that "everyone receiving a small state pension is currently paying an Albanian tax of 100 per cent on that pension".

This is because the state pension is actually below income support, said Professor Yarrow. Perhaps they should send a UN force into Whitehall.