Employee 'offered to set hitman on Cantor chief's rival'

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The Independent Online

The head of the broking firm Cantor Fitzgerald was so angry with an arch-rival at another firm that an employee offered to find a hitman to "take care" of the competitor, a court was told yesterday.

Lee Amaitis, European president of Cantor, was made the alleged offer about Michael Spencer, chief executive of Icap, according to evidence produced in a High Court case brought against Cantor by a former employee.

William Flannigan, an adviser to the company and an admiral in the American navy, asked if he should send someone "to take care of him [Spencer] once and for all," it was alleged by Steven Horkulak, 39, a former employee who is now suing Cantor for £1.5m for constructive dismissal.

The alleged threat is the latest development in one of the most bitter feuds in the City, which spilt over into personal mud-slinging between the domineering chief executives last year.

In a separate legal case, Cantor, which lost 658 of its employees in the 11 September terror attacks in New York, accused Icap of hatching a plan to snatch as many of its top earners as possible after the tragedy.

The case became particularly high profile after it was alleged in court that money brokers in London were snorting cocaine and spending a lot of time in lap-dancing clubs.

Timothy Brennan QC, who is acting for Mr Horkulak, said Mr Spencer, who persuaded three highly successful Cantor brokers to defect to Icap, made Mr Amaitis so angry that he labelled the Icap head a "f***ing fat greasy f***". Mr Spencer, who was in the High Court to watch Mr Amaitis being questioned over his allegedly foul language and boorish management techniques, heard his rival dismiss plans of violence against him as "ridiculous".

Mr Amaitis also denied describing him in the words Mr Brennan put to him. "I probably called him a f***ing vulture, because that's what the tabloids used," Mr Amaitis said. To back up his argument, Mr Amaitis, an American, pointed to Mr Spencer, saying: "You can see him sitting over there. He's not fat."

Mr Amaitis, nicknamed the Brooklyn bruiser, took the stand to deny charges that Mr Horkulak, who used to be a senior manager at Cantor, was bullied into resigning in June 2000. Mr Horkulak is seeking £1.5m compensation.

The picture painted by Mr Horkulak is one of frequent aggressive rants and swearing by Mr Amaitis towards himself and other underlings.

Mr Amaitis, 53, has admitted raising his voice and "occasionally" swearing at employees. But he told the court he was "direct", rather than "aggressive".

Cantor argues that senior managers at the company were critical of Mr Horkulak because he was not doing his job properly as head of global interest rate derivatives, including failing to control expenses and having a poor attendance record.

Mr Horkulak has admitted that for a period of time in his job at Cantor, in which he earned £250,000 as an annual basic pay, he had a drug and alcohol problem. He now is earning £300,000 in basic pay at Tullet, another brokerage firm.

Mr Amaitis, who worked his way to the top of Cantor from being a junior broker, said of his shouting: "It's part of the passion of our sort of business. We are very emotional about it."

The details of the case have been highly embarrassing for Cantor. One of its most awkward moments may have been yesterday, when the firm expanded its operations in Tokyo - just after Mr Horkulak alleged Mr Amaitis once referred to some people as "slanty-eyed yellow f***s". Cantor denies the description was ever used.

The case continues.