Warning: Black holes can damage your eyes

CITY DIARY

Asil Nadir's claim that the only reason he had dark rings under his eyes was because he was a workaholic can at last be officially challenged. Richard Stone, the court-appointed administrator who led the initial investigation into the finances of Polly Peck International, has been talking of the early days before the discovery of "the black hole''.

When the administrator first met Mr Nadir in the Polly Peck offices above Annabel's he asked the tycoon if his jaded peepers were in any way influenced by the proximity of the nightclub. No, Mr Nadir assured, it was all down to hard work. Mr Stone says he believed him. Until he discovered the Cypriot's five mistresses on the Polly Peck books.

Meanwhile, the long-suffering Chris Barlow, co-administrator of Polly Peck, is looking decidedly perkier after returning from his peace talks with the fugitive businessman without a bullet in his backside.

Mindful of the treatment meted out to British accountants in northern Cyprus in the past, Mr Barlow wrote to the government demanding full and proper protection. He was duly met at the airport by squads of police who took him to Mr Nadir's hotel.

Once there he was crushed into a tiny lift with two colleagues and a sweating bodyguard. Barely had it started than the lift broke down.

Although he confessed to not having actually read it, Eddie George, the Bank of England Governor, yesterday appeared comforted that the Singapore report on the collapse of Barings had reached the same conclusion as his own - ie Nick Leeson was a rogue who lost pounds 1bn.

Oddly this is not a view shared within Barings itself where they are keen to put the record straight. "Nick Leeson lost about pounds 50m,'' breathes a senior source. "The other pounds 950m was lost by the bank's management.''

After extensive research on economists' salaries the Society of Business Economists has interpreted the data to mean that they could do with some more money. Being economists they didn't put it quite so succinctly.

"While the median pay level has grown slightly faster than average earnings, at times the real value of economists' salaries has fallen,'' says their report.

What this means is that the large salary rises in the 1980s have not been repeated in the 90s - "a difficult time for many middle-class professionals but particularly for those paid to forecast the depth and extent of the 80s downturn as accurately as possible''.

Quite. But the "median'' salary of SBE members is still pounds 42,500, compared with an inflation-adjusted pounds 20,000 in 1964. The problem is that economists hit their peak earning years in their early thirties.

Sir Phil Harris, carpet king, South London boy made good and the only remaining Tory party donor, likes to stick to his roots. Among the impressive list of City advisers listed in the Carpetright annual report are the bankers - National Westminster (Tooting).

Julian Richer (above), hi-fi retailer turned trendy management consultant, has taken a sudden turn into the secondhand car trade. The man who galvanised the Asda workforce by persuading his pal Archie Norman to introduce the "drive a Jaguar for a month'' incentive programme has opened a Mercedes outlet in Leeds.

Mr Richer became famous by rewarding loyal staff at his hi-fi chain, Richer Sounds, by lending them his Rolls-Royce for a month. The company quickly entered the Guinness Book of Records in the highest-turnover-per- square-foot category and left the founder free to preach staff motivation techniques to big business. The secondhand car shop, called Julian's, will buy and sell prestige Mercedes. "We've got very good vibes about this one,'' said a spokesman.

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