Surprise winner as Logica buys a Czech mate

People and Business
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WHEN LOGICA bought a small software company in the Czech Republic last week, little did the management realise that they were also buying the latest winner of the Czech Derby.

A bemused Dr Martin Read, chief executive, and his fellow Logica directors are still trying to work out precisely how the acquisition of an information technology company called FCC Folprecht for pounds 3.6m brought with it ownership of one Blue Ridge Dancer. The racehorse is apparently "one of the best two-year-olds in the country," according to a Logica source yesterday.

The deal could be a bargain. The horse's career winnings already amount to 4m Czech kroner, or pounds 85,000.

Obviously, as a former GEC employee, Mr Read is on his way to emulating Lord Weinstock as a fancier of fine bloodstock. The Logica Handicap, anyone?

SENSITIVE CITY deals usually require the use of code names, and National Grid's pounds 2.4bn acquisition of New England Electric System (NEES) was no exception. The Grid became "Pilgrim", while the Massachusetts-based electricity company was dubbed "Mayflower".

Sadly, NEES doesn't appear to own any racehorses. However, that didn't stop the head Pilgrim Father himself, National Grid chief executive David Jones, being in fine form yesterday.

In a tense incident in the City, the doors of the lift containing Mr Jones and his fellow directors at the London Underwriting Centre in Mincing Lane became stuck. To the awestruck admiration of his peers, Mr Jones - whose background is in engineering, immediately dropped to the floor, tinkered with the door mechanism - and hey presto, they were free.

Perhaps the moral is that we need more engineering skills in the Square Mile. Or at least more lifts that work...

GLYN LLOYD is defecting from Capel Cure Sharp (formerly Albert E Sharp) after two years as a top IT analyst to join Mark Loveland's IT team at Dresdner Kleinwort Benson. Mr Lloyd, who worked for IBM before entering the City, is currently on a spot of gardening leave and will start at DKB on 5 January.

A SPIN DOCTOR who stood as the Tory candidate for Berwick-upon-Tweed in last year's General Election is to be the first chief executive of Business for Sterling, the ginger group set up to campaign against Britain embracing the euro.

Nick Herbert is leaving Bell Pottinger Communications to join Lord Marsh, chairman of the pressure group, at its offices in Buckingham Gate, London. Mr Herbert is also a former director of political affairs at the British Field Sports Society.

MARTIN GRANT's revolution at Vaux Group, where he was recently appointed chief executive, is gathering pace. As Sir Paul Nicholson announced his retirement as chairman of the pubs and hotels group yesterday after 33 years with the former family company, Mr Grant heralded a new "woman-friendly" era at the group's hotels.

Sir Paul attended the analysts' meeting covering Vaux's results yesterday, but left before the journalists arrived. Mr Martin confirmed however that Sir Paul fully backed Mr Martin's strategy of selling off Vaux's two breweries and 350 tenanted pubs in the North-east.

Out go the men in cloth caps supping ale, in come professional women customers. The company has concocted a "Woman's Charter" to make their Swallow hotels more attractive and secure to women, which will include spyholes in every room door and an iron in every room.

Moreover, staff will be trained so that, when a woman goes to dinner with a man in the dining room, the man will not automatically be handed the menu with the prices. The menu will instead be placed in neutral territory on the table.

Just don't go asking for a pint of Newcastle Brown.