The Canary

Barclays farce: To say that the decision to retire Mike O'Neill (below) on health grounds on the first day of his job as chief executive of Barclays took the organisation by surprise is something of an understatement. When the call came through last Thursday from California informing the acting chief Sir Peter Middleton that his new recruit was suffering from more than flu he was just about to take a weekend away with Lady Middleton to mark the fact that he was about to hand over the reins and settle back to his part-time role as non-executive chairman. Now it is back to square one.

C'est la vie.

Gorgeous George: The financier George Soros's third place in a list of Britain's 1,000 richest people, published last weekend, provokes a couple of thoughts. First, we always thought George was a Hungarian living in America. Second, his funds have had a ghastly start to the year. The $6.9bn (pounds 4.1bn) Quantum Fund lost 15.5 per cent of its net assets in the first quarter of 1999. If he invests in his own funds - perish the thought - his wealth should have shrunk rather than grown. A call to Soros Fund Management's headquarters to answer these pressing concerns is met with a firm "No comment".

Merrill merger: The courtship between Chase Manhattan, the giant American commercial bank, and Merrill Lynch, the giant American investment bank, is said to be nearing consummation. There is no official confirmation, but talk to anybody in Merrill Lynch's London office, where a deal is expected around July, and the conversation inevitably turns to the value of their share options. "We'll wait for the share price to peak, then head off," says our source at Merrill in London.

Going green: Despite record revenue in 1998, Reuters is planning to move more of its operations from London to Devon. It already has its fixed-income operations in sleepy Tiverton. Reuters is surprisingly tight-lipped about the plans considering it is an information company, but loyal Devon staff say the reason is to cut costs. An average salary in the Tiverton office is around pounds 15,000. That's small beer compared to the pounds 800,000-plus trousered by Peter Job, the 57-year-old former journalist and chief executive. A decision will be announced in May.

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