16 May 2011
What is about Air Marshall Sir John Walker, ex-spymaster at the Defence Intelligence Service (DIS) and one of the City's great and the good, and con artists?
Last month, Sir John admitted to being duped by convicted fraudster, "trillion dollar conman" Russell King, who is so evasive he is known as Lord Voldemort (the Harry Potter character who cannot be named). First London investment bank sent its adviser Walker to check out King, and apparently found nothing awry in his schemes promising billions in Bahraini investment for the bank, a minerals bonanza in North Korea, and the takeover of Notts County Football Club (with Sven-Goran Eriksson at the helm). The Serious Fraud Office is now investigating this house of cards. Of King, Sir John now admits: "He was good at chat... he was a conman."
* This wasn't the first time Walker had been led astray. In 2003, when he was on the board of private security company Inkerman, Sir John was "pleased to announce" the appointment of Kevin Halligen as CEO of an Inkerman subsidiary (according to Inkerman's old press release). It was Halligen's big break into the world of corporate spookery and the release spoke of Halligen's role on MoD "special projects" (though his expertise was really in, erm, batteries). But doubts about him soon arose. After he left Inkerman, Halligen - by then parading as a full-blown ex-spy - bagged the half-a-million-pound contract to find Madeleine McCann (but allegedly spent most of his time in bars and strip clubs and buying mansions). Now he sits at Her Majesty's leisure pending extradition to the US on £1.2 million fraud and money-laundering charges for a contract in which he promised to free two captive Trafigura staff in Ivory Coast (the appeal judgment is expected soon).
From top shelf to, er, Loaded
Paul Raymond, the late old rogue of Soho, made a mint out of top-shelf magazines before the advent of the internet, but the rise of online smut hit his publications hard. Now reborn under the name Tri Active Media, the business seems to be booming again. Following a bunch of acquisitions from IPC, Tri's website now boasts of a host of big name mags such as Loaded, SuperBike and HiFi News. Accounts show Tri turned losses of £950,000 into a profit of £917,723 last year - not bad given the economic climate. Turnover was £7.5 million, up from £6.5 million before. Not a mention of any smutty mags (Loaded excluded) on its website, but City Spy wonders if it has completely kicked its old habits. The accounts discuss the successful takeover of a business called Euroticus Media during the period. One wonders how the staff of Tri's Royalty magazine get on with these new colleagues...
* By the way, with talk resurfacing of another round of magazine disposals from poor old IPC, Tri's name is being mentioned in some circles as being a potential bidder again...
What time is it? Dizzee knows
How to sell luxury watches? Link up with the music industry. Sounds weird, but it's true. Watchmaker Raymond Weil has supported the music industry from classic to rock over the past 10 years. This year has also seen the brand's involvement in the sponsorship of the BRITs and Home House Live, support of the Nordoff Robbins music industry fundraiser and for the first year, the Classic BRITs.
Keith Sheppard, CEO and founder of Steerwell, UK licensee of Raymond Weil, says: "Music has definitely proved to the zeitgeist for selling
watches - we have seen exceptional sales of our new watch the Maestro through our patronage of the music industry. We've managed to tap into and supported some great opportunities from Dizzie Rascal's number one UK hit record Dirty Disco to offering a platform for emerging talent such as Dutch Uncles."
* Barratt chief executive Mark Clare claims to "prefer new build" homes - even though he lives in a house more than 100 years old. His counterpart at Bovis Homes, David Ritchie, also lives in an old house - 500 years - in Kent. And Ritchie insists: "The privilege of being a chief executive of a housebuilder is that I'm in a lucky position where I have been able to put a little bit more money into the house I live in and have a little bit more of a garden. But it's not through lack of being impressed with what we deliver. If I was in my mid-twenties again, as a trainee accountant with a very modest salary and scraping together my 5% deposit, and I was looking to buy a three-bedroom property, I think the three-storey town houses we offer are fantastic value for money. I would live in one tomorrow if I was in my twenties just getting married and potentially thinking about having a family." David, we get the message.
* Hundreds of jargon-bearing words from Gulfsands Petroleum in its Stock Exchange announcement detailing its Syrian operations - all "Triassic formations" and "coring operations". But not a mention of the little matter of civil unrest...
* Meanwhile, it's gung-ho times for the Saudis, who have just launched a blitzkrieg of radio recruitment ads for executives to join its state-owned Aramco oil company. City Spy can't quite work out who the Saudis are trying to reach. Is the afternoon audience of indie rock station XFM - where Aramco features in practically every ad break - really where it wants to be drilling for talent?
* Keen to buy the former home of the In and Out Club? Please post a certified banker's cheque for £180 million to Allsop, receivers of the 1.3-acre plot, once owned by Simon Halabi. It is almost a year since Jones Lang LaSalle was appointed to find a buyer. Since then a parade of those hopeful of turning a site with 300-foot frontage on Piccadilly into a hotel have fallen over due diligence. "We just want someone serious now," warns a frustrated agent.
"WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER" - Rebekah Brooks to David Cameron
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