Patent pending on sunshine prescriptions?

People & Business

John Willcock
Sunday 23 October 2011 08:38

A colleague of mine had the luck to overhear a fascinating conversation between two Glaxo Wellcome big cheeses in the gents just before yesterday's results press conference in London.

Sir Richard Sykes, chief executive of Glaxo and soon-to-be executive chairman, and John Coombe, finance director, were availing themselves of the facilities when Mr Coombe started ruminating on the cause of his bad back.

While Sir Richard made sympathetic noises, Mr Coombe said he blamed "the stress and the weather. When the sun comes out everyone feels better."

Espying my ear-wigging colleague, Mr Coombe added loudly: "We're all animals, after all."

So that's it then. Now that Glaxo's patent on Zantac, the wonder-drug for ulcers, is due to run out, Glaxo is obviously working overtime on a copyright for solar radiation.

Most City asset management types were surprised, not to say stunned, when Donald Brydon was ousted as acting chief executive of BZW last September, when Bill Harrison took over. Much admired in the industry, Mr Brydon has turned up trumps with the top job at AXA Asset Management Europe, where he will oversee assets worth Fr1,077bn.

Mr Brydon was a BZW man who joined Barclays Bank in 1977. He became chairman and chief executive of BZW Investment Management in 1990. He was promoted to become deputy of the chief executive, David Band, four years later. With Mr Band's death last year many assumed Mr Brydon would take the top job permanently. But three days after Mr Harrison arrived from Robert Fleming, Mr Brydon was out.

There is still some confusion at AXA, however, over where Mr Brydon is going to live. AXA's head office is in Paris. A spokeswoman from AXA says: "At the beginning he will be travelling a lot between London and Paris. Where he will stay in the end, we don't know."

Sounds like a Eurostar season ticket job to me.

I've just received a missive from Unify, a computer software consultancy. It starts off: "Unify Corporation, supplier of Unify Vision, the advanced Client/Server Web enabled application development environment, has made two key appointments."

Now I'm as big a fan of the Internet as anyone - fully modemed, me - but this seems to be taking technobabble to new baroque heights.

As far as I can ascertain, Unify Vision is a software "template" which financial companies can use to design and build computer systems, which can then be accessed by their operations around the world via the Internet.

Roger Turner, co-founder and managing director of United Gas, has always been a leading advocate of independent gas supply in the UK.

It's now 12 months since UtiliCorp UK, a Kansas-owned company, acquired full control of United Gas, and Mr Turner is leaving to look for new opportunities in the energy field.

There may be a few people at TransCo, the former British Gas pipeline business, who may breathe a sigh of relief at Mr Turner's absence, however temporary, from the utilities stage.

He was a vocal fan of the huge price cuts forced on TransCo early last year by Clare Spottiswoode of Ofgas. She plumped for 20 per cent cuts, he called for 30 per cent.

Whatever the redoubtable Mr Turner decides to do next, he's not short of a bob or two, having made a fortune several times over.

Electricity, rail and water utility chiefs should keep their fingers crossed in case he decides to take them on.

Nationwide Building Society, that champion of mutuality standing four- square, or rather Canute-like, against the rising tide of conversions, has introduced new blood to its board. Jonathan Agnew and John Engestrom have joined as non-exec directors.

Mr Agnew is a former chief executive of Kleinwort Benson and ex-managing director of Morgan Stanley. He's executive chairman of London Insurance Market Investment Trust and a member of Lloyd's. Mr Engestrom is another big noise from the insurance world, who spent 16 years with Skandi and was recently appointed chief executive of Liberty Re.

Speaking of former chief executives of Kleinwort Benson, Simon Robertson, who left that post last Friday, has popped as a non-executive director at BTR, the engineering conglomerate. BTR insists he was approached before his shock departure. Mr Robertson is already a non-exec at John Mowlem, Inchcape and The O'Connor Group of New York. Stand by for a full-time appointment.

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