When discretion proved the more noble course of action
Sunday 19 February 1995
Frank Taylor was a classic Thatcherite entrepreneur. Unlike many of the breed he built up a real, long-lasting business - Taylor Woodrow - from scratch. In the early 1980s, he was trying to offset the effects of the depression at home by looking for business in the Middle East. He was just about to complete a deal to build a new university in Oman when the contract was snatched from his outstretched hands by another British company, Cementation, with which the young Mark Thatcher was then closely associated.
An earthy sort of chap, Frank Taylor, as he then was, let out a number of choice expletives and threatened all manner of public protest. Shortly afterwards he received his (well-deserved) peerage and did not utter another word about the Oman affair.
YOU will recall the famous announcement on the notice boards of Hollywood studios: "It is not enough to be Hungarian, you must also work." Ditto for aristocrats in the City, as Simon Dallas, the sixth Earl Cairns, has found out to his cost. He had to leave Warburg under something of a cloud, despite being descended from the lawyer who earned his title as Lord Chancellor in Benjamin Disraeli's cabinet in the 1870s.
Cairns is survived in the City by the chairman of Kleinwort Benson, James Hugh Cecil, third Baron Rockley. He is the grandson of a relatively undistinguished scion of the Cecils, the most glamorous of British aristocratic families. Like Cairns, Rockley earned his job - he had gone to work for an US brokerage house in 1957 when this was unthinkable for a Cecil.
For - with the possible exception of the Rothschilds - the idea of an hereditary City aristocracy lives only in the fertile imagination of left- wing romantics. The survival of a family bank depends on the remorseless exclusion of the less gifted members of the family. "We were given a pretty rough ride by our relations," recalls one Baring who survived.
None of the five peers in the Baring family works for the bank. Lord Howick left it in 1982, at the age of 45, while the the senior Baring, Lord Cromer, son of a former governor of the Bank of England, spends his time overseeing Inchcape's business in Vietnam.
Young guns in 3-D
I HAVE to admit that it was only after considerable coaching that I could see the Other Dimension in the 3-D animated stereograms being peddled by Altered States, a combination of two likely lads, former carpenter Adrian Bowker and ex-stainless-steel salesman Andy Clarke.
They're not too worried about my lack of perception since their big growth area at the moment is still 3-D stereograms like the one on the right. These date back five years to when the eye department of a San Francisco hospital devised the software package required to help cure patients with a rare type of aneurism in the eyes. The package was taken up by an American entrepreneur, Tom Baccei, who launched stereograms under the Magic Eye label.
Enter Messrs Clarke and Bowker, who have taken the idea still further, thus reversing the usual story. For once a foriegn idea has been taken up and fully developed in Britain. They've already become a big hit with ad agencies anxious to provide clients as varied as Burger King and Bacardi with something different. Refreshingly, they're not afraid of the American competition. Like any pair of confident young hustlers in Silicon Valley, they reckon that they can move fast and flexibly enough to keep ahead of the game.
ONE for the "any publicity is good publicity" department. "Why this book is dangerous" trumpeted (snorted? harrumphed?) the Daily Telegraph on Monday, appalled by the notion put forward in a recent publication that the City was not the best judge of the nation's interests. Helped by this boost, the book in question, The State We're In, by Will Hutton, the economics editor of the Guardian, has now zoomed to the number two slot in the weekly list of best-sellers compiled by our esteemed contemporary, the Sunday Times.
Typically, the publishers won't reveal the exact number of copies they've printed, but it has already been reprinted four times, making a total of at least 25,000; an unthinkable figure for a serious work of economic and political analysis.
Historically, the last time the British bourgeoisie seized so avidly on such grown-up seditious material was during the Second World War. And after that they voted overwhelmingly for a Labour government. No comment.
CONFRONTED by the latest piece of hypocrisy, I'm having to break my solemn oath not to be beastly about the French. M Toubon, their Minister of Culture, has still not abandoned his attempts to persuade the European Union to build high walls against the invasion of the Barbarians from Hollywood, who have got an increasingly tentacular grip on Europe's screens, large and small.
But he left one crucial fact out of the impassioned plea for independence he made at a meeting of European ministers of culture in Bordeaux on Monday (the claret served with dinner afterwards was what European culture really is about). It is that one of the biggest Hollywood Studios, MGM-United Artists, is owned by the French state-owned bank, Crdit Lyonnais (which got it after a pair of dubious Italian chancers went broke, owing the bank billions).
Under American law, CL has to sell the studios in the next couple of years and, to make them saleable, is having to pump large quantities of finance into the production of precisely the very films that are swamping French screens. The sums are not negligible: CL put in an additional £250m last year, roughly twice what the French government paid its film industry.
RIGHT ON Blakenham. As a trendy meeja business, the Pearson Group clearly couldn't remain in the boring Millbank Tower. But its choice of Burlington Gardens is handier for Savile Row than for TV land.
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