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Financial Mail, London, Gadfly column
[October 17, 2006]

Financial Mail, London, Gadfly column

(Daily Mail (London) (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Oct. 15--Time was when business types were expected to show at least a glimmering of appreciation for the fine arts.

You didn't have to go as far as the late Sir Peter Parker (formerly of British Rail and glass group Rockware) a genuine and formidable culture vulture. The odd reference to Browning and the occasional appearance at the opera did the job.

No longer. Monday saw Gadfly attend the UK final for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year awards at the Grosvenor House Hotel in central London.

The 32 finalists were asked to provide details of their favourite films, authors, books and songs. Oh dear, here are some of the results.

Joint-favourite movies were The Godfather and Gladiator, with appearances for Platoon, Apocalypse Now, Psycho and the truly unpleasant Casino.

There was some glimmer of light in the favourite books list, with Steinbeck's The Grapes Of Wrath coming in second.

Alas, Steinbeck was pipped at the post by King Flake himself, Dan "Da Vinci Code" Brown.

Elvis (Presley, not Costello) was the most popular singer, suggesting a somewhat meat-and-two-veg approach to music.

Indeed, Meatloaf's Bat Out Of Hell (quite a nice song the first five million times one hears it) was the fave ditty of hedge fund supremo Stanley Fink (he was shortlisted for the "quoted entrepreneur" category but missed out).

By the way, the overall winner was Tim Richards of cinema chain Vue Entertainment Holdings. Presumably, he has made a mint out of his fellow entrepreneurs' boundless appetite for tripey films.

PROBITY IS THE NAME OF THE GAME these days among those promoting the public face of British Airways.

Not surprising, given the airline faces huge fines and the prospect of senior intrepid birdmen being extradited to the US should the Office of Fair Trading decide the flag-carrier colluded with another airline over the timing of fuel surcharges.

Last week, marketing director Martin George and media relations boss Iain Burns resigned over the issue. But Gadfly has full confidence in the integrity -- indeed, the ignorance -- of the airline's Press team.

We rang BA's media pod near Heathrow on Friday with the news that bitter rival Virgin Atlantic had cut its fuel surcharge from 70 a round trip to 60.

An incredulous spokesman asked Gadfly to read out the full contents of the Virgin Atlantic communique.

Either an Oscar-winning piece of acting, or BA really had no idea of the Virgin move.

FLYBITTEN: The world turns and we are back in the season of "leaves on the line."

Yessir, the latter-day Casey Joneses running our railways are all a-tremble at the thought of their pristine tracks made squelchy by leaf-shedding trees.

Thameslink operator First Capital Connect has just told sufferers (sorry, "passengers') on its London to St Albans service of an added two minutes to take account of the issue.

Now we all know that a train "only" five minutes late is "on time" as far as operators are concerned.

But do the two "leaf" minutes come off the five minutes, are they additional, or, indeed, do the "leaf minutes" come complete with their own fiveminute leeway?

The company says the two minutes are deducted from the original fiveminute leeway. For tardy train drivers, is it a case of the wrong kind of time?

GREEN BUILT MORE LIKE: Gadfly's friend James Heartfield is making mischief again.

Last year, his stinging attack on the "creative economy" was published by a New Labour quango devoted to promoting... the creative economy.

The great provocateur's latest tome is Let's Build!, a stinging attack on, er, the green belt. He opens with: "Let's build. Let's build five million new homes. Let's build them now..."

This is published by audacity, a group committed to "the manmade environment, free from "sustainababble" and "communitwaddle"."

Gadfly's delight at seeing Heartfield back in print was matched only by our horror at the prospect of his vision being realised. But we were reassured of his environmental good intentions by the author photo, snapped in front of a bright green hedge.

NERVY TIMES THIS WEEK for certain people in UK banking as yet more Enron disclosures are set to tumble out in court.

Former finance chief Andrew Fastow, serving six years, is to make a sworn statement to a Houston court, starting tomorrow. It is all part of the litigation by Enron investors, claiming that certain banks knew enough to stop the group's fraud.

Potential targets include Royal Bank of Scotland, hence the potential for sleepless nights this side of the pond.

Fastow has nothing to gain or lose from his evidence. Alas, not everyone can say the same.

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Copyright (c) 2006, Financial Mail on Sunday, London
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News.
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