While civil servants are still recovering from this blow they can comfort themselves with the news of a U-turn over the Treasury building's refurbishment.
Ken Clarke hatched a plan to redevelop half the Treasury building in Whitehall as bijoux apartments, while the other would be tarted up for the department. This involved Treasury personnel temporarily moving out to a tatty office building on the south side of Vauxhall Bridge. Some Whitehall cynics viewed the project as an elaborate joke by Mr Clarke on his stern Scottish successor.
Now Geoffrey Robinson, Paymaster General, has decided to press ahead with the refurbishment as a PFI project, but the move to Vauxhall has been ditched. Instead the Treasury will look for more convenient (and agreeable) temporary offices. Treasury mandarins are already eyeing MAFF's building near Trafalgar Square, I hear.
The attempt to find new backers for the troubled newspaper Sunday Business, which I wrote about last week, appear to have foundered.
The immediate crisis came about when Gordon Brown, a northern industrialist who owns three-quarters of the paper, went bust. His receivers, Coopers & Lybrand, were hoping to sell the stake to Owen Oyston, the jailed entrepreneur, in a deal put together by ex-founding editor Tom Rubython. The deadline for the deal passed yesterday afternoon at three, and receivership now looms for Sunday Business itself.
A sticking point appears to be the ownership structure of the paper. Luke Johnson, the businessman behind PizzaExpress, owns around a fifth of the paper, but with the right to appoint a majority of its directors. A spokeswoman for the receivers said yesterday this gave Mr Johnson a "veto" over any sale of the paper. "It was a sticking point with the original deal," she said.
Mr Rubython yesterday said he was "unqualified to comment" about the future of the paper, saying he had tried to help refinance it but "I don't think we succeeded". He's now concentrating on an Internet project.
Yesterday forlorn groups of Sunday Business staff - there are 60 of them - hung around outside the paper's Cavendish Square offices, hoping to pick up some of their back pay. Coopers is hopeful that even if the paper goes into receivership it can be sold as a going concern, thus saving those jobs.
Evel Knievel is following the Sunday Business story with interest. Not the American motorcyclist that is - this is the nom de metier of Simon Cawkwell, the maverick investor who writes a column for Sunday Business. "If the paper is refinanced, then I'll be back on track. If not, I'm open to offers," he told me yesterday.
Mr Cawkwell has been giving a hard time to Display IT, a troubled Internet- based company in which Mr Cawkwell admits he has a short position. Display IT's shares recovered 120p to 265p yesterday, still down on the 810p they touched earlier this year. Regarding that precipitous decline, Display IT's directors are muttering about "share manipulation".
They can agree with Mr Cawkwell on one point. He says: "This story has much further to go."
There's a new Broom at Accountancy Age, the bean counters' weekly magazine. Douglas Broom, who has edited Public Finance magazine for the past three years, will take over at AA in August. He fills the chair left by Andrew Pring, who unexpectedly parted company with the mag in April due to "irreconcilable differences" with management. Let's hope Mr Broom's sojourn will be happier.
Morgan Stanley's retail team can claim more industry experience than most. Julie Ramshaw, stores analyst from 1990 to 1996, has returned from an ill-fated stint at Laura Ashley and is now UK retail analyst. This has involved moving Victoria Melendez to become European apparel and sports clothing analyst, with Claire Kent covering European retail.Reuse content