People & Business: We wouldn't call the spin doctor

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The Independent Online
OVER A THIRD of British finance directors think the appointment of Peter Mandelson as head of the Department of Trade and Industry will "not be good news for UK business," while nearly half are neutral.

Only a piddling 21 per cent give Mandy the thumbs-up, according to a Reed Accountancy Personnel survey for Accountancy Age published today.

Those who were less than impressed with Mr Mandelson's promotion pointed to his lack of relevant experience and his image as the High Priest of Spin.

One FD commented: "We need someone with a track record respected by captains of industry, instead of this controversial figure," while another asked: "How can someone who has been a `professional' politician all his life have any concept of what is good for UK business?"

I had no idea Mr Mandelson had been a politician "all his life". It must have made his schooldays interesting. Anyway, more favourable FDs say that the selection of such a high-profile figure should improve business's standing, and Mr Mandelson's links with Europe should prove useful as economic union proceeds.

Incidentally, it's interesting to see that Mr Mandelson has ditched the "President" title revived by Michael Heseltine when he was at the DTI. Margaret Beckett muddled on with President but Mr Mandelson will merely be "head".

ANGLOGOLD, the world's largest gold mining company, paraded a 500-pound, eight-foot-long male lion named Arthur at the New York Stock Exchange yesterday to celebrate the company's listing on the Big Board.

Sadly Arthur went home hungry, at least as far as broker meat goes. The lion strolled along the balcony overlooking the trading floor as Richard Grasso, NYSE chairman, and Robert M Godsell, Anglogold chief executive, rang the opening bell.

Mr Grasso did, however, feed the ferocious beast - with a big baby's bottle. Somewhat spoiling the effect, I would have thought.

A spokeswoman at Anglogold admitted that they did have concerns that the bell might startle Arthur, causing him to leap into the trading pits, but happily he took it in his stride.

Anglogold is the first South African company to list on the NYSE. The company was formed two months ago by Anglo American folding a series of gold ventures into a single body, to cut costs.

Anglogold's rented lion, which starred in the Jim Carey film Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, was the latest stunt using the 206-year-old exchange as a backdrop. The promotional events have become increasingly common in recent years as the NYSE competes with rival Nasdaq to lure new companies.

Gap, the clothes retailer, blocked up surrounding streets to set up a huge television; a chocolate-bar-shaped "Kissmobile" delivered Hershey's Kisses on Wall Street; while Arianna the cow ushered in the listing of Gateway 2000, the South Dakota computer company.

When Bestfoods changed its name from CPC International the company employed live bulls and people dressed as jars of Hellman's mayonnaise and Skippy peanut butter to run around the block.

On Tuesday German software maker SAP turned a neighbouring street into a beach party, importing 60 tons of sand, 5,000 beach balls and six bands - including the 1970s classic Kool & the Gang.

Not doubt all this fun will ease the pain as the bull market begins to bite.

HUGH LANG is retiring as the head of Brammer, the Cheshire-based supplier of industrial components, having reached his 65th birthday. Mr Lang is being replaced as chairman, after eight years in the post, by Robert Ffoulkes- Jones, 56, who has been chief executive for the past 10 years.

Brammer is bringing in Ian Fraser, 43, from Reliance Security Group to be the new chief executive.

The company is based in Altrincham and has two main businesses, supplying industrial components, often at short notice to manufacturers who have suffered breakdowns, and hiring out hi-tech systems such as computers. It has so far avoided expansion into the US or Asia, opting instead to become a pan-European player.

Mr Lang will carry on with his other chairmanships, at Manganese Bronze Holdings, the taxi-makers, and Albion, a Scottish management buy-in.

ISN'T business-speak wonderful? Try the following announcement for size: "Select Software Tools, a leading vendor of component-based modeling and management tools, today announced an expense realignment in order to better meet the needs of the market.

"Key changes include the departure of President Ed Holt, three promotions within the management team and an overall reduction in headcount and expenses by approximately 20 per cent."

In other words, the next time your boss starts talking about the need for an "expense realignment", you've had it.