The City and Media Diary

Toon Army's old boss plays at home – with an £8m mansion restoration
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The Independent Online

North-east business tycoon Sir John Hall has found a good way of spending the millions he received from the recent sale of his shares in Newcastle United. He is ploughing the cash into the restoration of his mansion, Wynyard Hall, near Stockton. The hall is undergoing an £8m refurbishment programme in the hope it will one day rival the Duke of Northumberland's Alnwick Castle as an international tourist destination. The 2,000-acre site, which Sir John acquired as his family home 21 years ago, has become the property developer's latest pet project. The former Magpies chairman has called in historic-gardens consultants to ensure that the estate, which also features a lake and three follies, is returned to its glory days of the 1820s – about the time Newcastle Utd last won a trophy of significance.

A phantom menace?

It's time again for 'The Telegraph' to hold its annual Christmas whoop. This year, in keeping with the modernisation of the paper, it is being held at London nightclub Pacha, round the corner from its new offices in Victoria. Luckily, there aren't too many senior staff left at 'The Telegraph' to tut about the decision to celebrate in a haven of techno music and over-priced drinks. One Telegrapher reports the party is fancy dress, and that editor-in-chief Will Lewis intends to turn up as Darth Vader. Surely some sort of a joke?

£10,000 a ticket? It's a whole lotta love for Led Zep

Led Zeppelin fans take note. A pair of tickets to see the band's one-off tribute gig at the O2 Arena in London on 10 December are being auctioned off for charity., the agency doing the flogging, is hoping to get £10,000 for the tickets. Who is willing to pay that huge sum to see the aged rockers in action? Well, pre-credit crunch, the answer was probably any number of City folk. Now, well, we will have to wait and see. If they do go for the £10k, the tickets will become the most expensive in music concert history.

Um, Mr Peston, was Mr Naughtie a little, er, rude?

It sounds as if the 'Today' programme's James Naughtie is not happy that the BBC's erudite business editor, Robert Peston, is hogging so much of the limelight. Peston was wheeled on to the show early on Tuesday morning to talk about his interview with Bank of England governor Mervyn King. When he started um-ing and er-ing, Naughtie jumped in and, three times, tried to hurry him up. We're used to 'Today' interviewers interrupting politicians, but interrupting their own colleagues is a new development.

Battle of the tables

A turf war has broken out at Westminster between Fleet Street hacks and select-committee researchers. The latter keep invading the press tables in the Commons committee rooms. The hacks have responded with sarcastic insults and (I'm sorry to report) the occasional flicked paper pellet during meetings. "MPs never

used to have as much research back-up," grumbles one scribe.

Two hats for Greenslade

Roy Greenslade has jumped to his own defence over at the 'Evening Standard'. He writes a weekly media column for the paper and a blog for Media Guardian. But Greenslade is undisturbed by those who worry that his daily and weekly offerings might "overlap". "The contract has a long way to run," says Roy. "As far as I know it ends in March and I've yet to make up my mind about it."

Vodafone hooks up to virtual world

Could Vodafone actually be getting trendy? The big red mobile machine has entered the virtual, computer-generated world of Second Life with a new telephone service. Players' characters will be able to use Vodafone handsets to ring each other within the virtual world. As the calls are put through in cyberspace, the players' mobiles actually connect in the real world as well. It all sounds a bit odd to us Luddites, but apparently Second Life is where today's "yoof" hang out. An elderly (that'll be 30-something) analyst tells us: "We are expecting Arun Sarin [Vodafone's chief executive] to start rapping at the company's next results presentation. Maybe that's why the shares are off today."

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