Cable firm rings the changes on phone boxes; City Diary

John Willcock
Wednesday 31 July 1996 23:02

Good news for fans of the traditional red telephone boxes which were abolished by BT: they're coming back. Except this time they'll be green.

The Telewest TV-cable company is scouring the world to buy up any remaining boxes so that they can bring them back to the UK and paint them in Telewest's corporate green.

The green-ified booths will be set up as a marketing tool wherever Telewest has a concentration of cable users. You will even be able to make real phone calls from them - using the cable network.

Ian Hood, director of corporate communications at Telewest is coy about the scheme: "We are looking for opportunities to promote the brand. It's no secret that our new corporate colours are green. Beyond that, I couldn't possibly comment."

In other words, it's true. So how does BT feel about it?

Howard Hodgson, the long-haired former funeral director and self-styled "flamboyant millionaire Ronson chief executive" was even more immaculately coiffured than usual yesterday.

Just as well, since he was previewing Ronson's first range of men's fashion accessories. Ronson is using its centenary year to attempt to emulate Dunhill and expand beyond the traditional base, in Ronson's case cigarette lighters.

Dermot Reeve, the retired captain of Warwickshire County Cricket Club and good friend of Mr Hodgson's, was also on hand at the breakfast preview in London to hymn the three new ranges. These will include shavers, sunglasses, old-fashioned ball point pens, Italian cufflinks and the like. Oh, and lighters.

Lloyd's of London has just sent out 46.7 tons of mail to its 34,000 members, so it's just as well the next postal strike isn't due until next Tuesday.

The troubled Lime Street insurance market has posted out its definitive "Reconstruction and Renewal Settlement Offer", which members must OK if it is to survive and prosper.

Lloyd's has devoted 40 staff specifically to handle the mailing, which consists of more than 16 million A4 pages. A Lloyd's spokesman is reluctant to be drawn on the costs of the project, not least because the precise costs are not yet known. "I'm waiting for the invoices," he says. You can understand why David Rowland, chairman of Lloyd's, doesn't want to revise the offer again, despite threats of legal action by some names' groups. The cost of another mailing could really send Lloyd's beneath the waves.

Rob Meakin is well-qualified for his new job as director of human resources at British Gas Energy. One of Mr Meakin's biggest previous jobs was at British Leyland in the infamous 1970s.

It was during these years that the many "Spanish Practices" at Leyland plants reached their nadir. Strikes, Red Robbo, the Marina and Allegro represent some of the most depressing days of British industrial decline.

Mr Meakin, 46, joined British Leyland/Rover in 1973. Since then he has concentrated on "helping to rejuvenate businesses and transforming them into highly focused services and providers with a strong emphasis on customer satisfaction."

Having stared into the abyss at Leyland, he will know what British Gas Energy should avoid. And he could be useful at dealing with complaints too.

Any UK investment bank with pretensions to rival the American "bulge bracket" giants knows that at some point it has to gain a US presence. A similar problem faces British law firms that want to compete globally in the highly lucrative securities area. Good news then that City solicitors Freshfields has managed to poach Tom Joyce, an American securities specialist with 24 years' experience at New York law firm Shearman & Sterling. Mr Joyce has already spent 10 years in London and will be building a small US securities law team for Freshfields to support its capital markets practice.

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