Shocked Exchange finds a journalist in its midst

CITY DIARY
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The Independent Online
The recent return of Anthony Hilton, formerly managing director of the London Evening Standard, to his old haunt as the paper's City editor, has prompted concern among the more nervous members of the London Stock Exchange.

Mr Hilton is still sitting on the Weinberg committee - set up in October to examine small investors' interests - and his reincarnation as a member of the grubby fourth estate has had some reaching for the Rennies at this sensitive time for the Exchange.

Mr Hilton accepted the appointment when he was a manager with a journalistic background. "He was the nearest thing we had to the man in the street," said one insider. "The last thing we wanted was a practising journalist on the committee."

Sir Mark Weinberg, the committee chairman, has taken Mr Hilton's sudden change of career in his stride. "Good Lord, has he?" he inquired. "I wasn't aware. But I have been away." He was nevertheless emphatic about his stringent requirements for the conduct of committee members.

"I have asked all members not to speculate on the outcome while we are engaged in heavy market research," said Sir Mark, joint chairman of St James Place Capital. "I would expect him to respect that fact."

Lazard Brothers, financial adviser to Pearson on the bid for Alan McKeown's SelecTV, came up with a novel code name for the deal, which has come in handy in light of the well publicised delays. (For those readers not familiar with City practice, the Square Mile is positively littered with oblique references to exotic plants, animals and even operas. It supposedly prevents the identity of possible targets being revealed through constant repetition in memos and letters.)

In the case of SelecTV the code name chosen was Seagull. Not very inspiring, you might think. But someone has clearly made good use of it. Every time the Lazard team came up against glitches in the negotiations, they - as one does - blamed the other side. A call would go in to headquarters, with the message: no deal tonight, "the seagull has shit again".

It has been a regular bird, by all accounts.

The pounds 25m sale of Video Arts - the management training company founded by the comic actor John Cleese and Sir Anthony Jay, author of Yes, Minister - has thrown up some interesting snippets. Not least is data on the relative popularity of the various productions. It turns out that the company's top-selling videos in the City are Meetings, Bloody Meetings and the Balance Sheet Barrier, an idiot's guide to basic finance, starring the alarming combination of John Cleese and Dawn French.

So just who has been boning up on the basics? The top five City clients are TSB, Halifax Building Society, Clydesdale Bank, Standard Life, the Kuwait Investment Authority and Eagle Star. Frightening, isn't it?

For those who really have trouble sleeping comes KIFM, "the 20-minute radio programme on cassette". True, it does sound like an American soul music station. But KIFM stands for Kidsons Impey Finance Matters and the cassette features 20 minutes of "topical business stories" for the accountants' clients - including self-assessment, profit-related pay ...Wake up at the back there.

Desperate as ever to touch base with ordinary business folk, the Department of Trade and Industry has turned to John Noakes (above), the legendary Blue Peter presenter, to spearhead its scheme for turning brilliant inventions into commercial successes. Mr Noakes apparently qualified for the job because he invented a version of the hang-glider when he was 10. He is pictured with something he made earlier.

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