Red alert among BT shareholders meeting

People & Business
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The Independent Online
On the historic occasion of BT's egm yesterday to vote on the merger with American giant MCI there was the usual fringe of investors who posed, shall we say, esoteric questions to Sir Iain Vallance, BT's urbane chairman.

Things began to slide rapidly downhill when one shareholder pointed out that the same word could mean different things on opposite sides of the Atlantic.

The problem was the shareholder didn't explain exactly what the word was. Sir Iain, with typical British tact, smiled and said: "Interesting question."

The highlight of an otherwise dull meeting was the investor who informed a stunned assembly: "The Americans have often fought against the colour red.

"In the 18th Century it was the redcoats, in the 19th Century it was the redskins, and in the 20th Century it was the Reds [the communists]."

He added that BT had reintroduced the colour red on the top of its redesigned telephone boxes. Would MCI's US executives force this to be changed to blue, he wondered?

Was this a joke? By this stage it was hard to tell, but Sir Iain simply smiled again. What the two MCI board members on the podium made of all this is hard to say. Perhaps they put it down to that wacky English sense of humour.

Tony Hales, chief executive of Allied Domecq, is a born and bred Aston Villa fan. As such, he could not stand idly by while his beloved club was being floated. He therefore resigned yesterday from his non-executive directorship at Hyder, formerly Welsh Water, in order to assume a similar position at the Brummie club, which announces its float price today.

Villa, currently standing in the higher reaches of the Premiership, hopes to cash in on the latest craze for quoted clubs. It is aiming to raise pounds 15-20m on flotation and will be capitalised at between pounds 120-140m.

Earlier this month Villa appointed Mark Ansell, head of corporate finance at accountants Deloitte & Touche in the Midlands, as its finance director. David Owen, senior corporate partner at Edge & Ellison, the law firm, also recently joined as a non-exec.

Just for the record, Allied Domecq's Teacher's Whisky sponsors Bath Rugby Club. Speaking as a Bath supporter, I wonder if this presages joint use of grounds, or perhaps a player-exchange. I'm sure Steve Ojomoh and Jeremy Guscott could sharpen up Villa's tackling.

Sticking with football, Crystal Palace chairman Ron Noads and manager Steve Coppell were both at the Divert Challenge Cup on Monday, a charity tournament for youth teams in association with KPMG. The footy extravaganza at the Ferndale Centre, Brixton, also attracted the support of Lord Elton, chairman of the Divert Trust and former home secretary, and Bernard Clow, partner in charge of community projects with KPMG.

The shindig attracted teams from all over the country, and the winners of the Under-14 cup were Lambeth Tigers. The final went to penalties, and the Tigers beat sick-as-a-parrot West Wycombe 8-7. In the Under-12s Fenstanton Junior School were over the moon as they beat the junior Lambeth Tigers team 3-0. Quite remarkable.

Dresdner Kleinwort Benson has appointed Xavier Rolet, a 38-year-old Frenchman, as its London-based head of trading and equity risk. Mr Rolet will work alongside Mark Potashnick, head of equity risk, before assuming full control. Mr Potashnick will then concentrate on "broader management issues" as deputy head of the equities business.

Young Rolet has a cv a headhunter would sell his mother for: a graduate of the Ecole Superieure de Commerce and Columbia Business School in New York; 10 years with Goldman Sachs; two years as managing director of European equities with Credit Suisse First Boston in London and the past year doing consultancy work for Bayerische Vereinsbank in Munich. I'm sure that German stint clinched it with Dresdner.

The people over at Barclays Bank are very cross about recent press reports suggesting the bank is about to axe its eagle logo, first used in 1736.

The rumours follow HSBC's decision to axe the Midland Bank griffin in favour of HSBC's dull affair, a red version of St Andrew's cross.

When asked about clipping the eagle's wings, a Barclays spokesman says this is "not the case at all. We have been reviewing our branding for some time and this is a process which will go on. Nothing is imminent."

Sounds like "Bye Bye Birdie" to me.

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