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  1. Wealth
January 15, 2020updated 22 Jan 2020 10:59am

Hedgehog’s diary: Billionaire bosses, Philip Green on screen and Lord Bell’s secret software

By Spear's

Our prickly epistolerian sniffs out the tastiest stories from the Square Mile, Mayfair and beyond, edited by Edwin Smith

Green screen

Michael Winterbottom’s new film, Greed, sees Steve Coogan play a retail billionaire who channels money through his Monaco-domiciled wife, appears at a select committee hearing and has a taste for lavish parties. So far, so Philip Green. But could the similarities land the movie in hot water? Leading defamation lawyer Nigel Tait, of Carter-Ruck, tells Hedgehog that such ‘fictional’ depictions can be risky.

Steve Coogan in Greed

‘We’ve certainly sued for clients over things that were ostensibly works of fiction, where it has been very clear who the character is based on, and something libellous has been said about them.’

However, Tait adds, Winterbottom, Coogan et al shouldn’t be unduly worried. ‘I would have thought it’s a safe bet for the producers of that film to model it on Philip Green – he hasn’t got any reputation left.’

***

A FORMER resident of Saudi Arabia who lived in the oil-rich state during the Seventies tells Hedgehog that they not only remember being invited to executions on weekends – but also being offered a gold Rolex to attend.

***

A NEW book from financial headhunter Mark Somers is entitled How To Work For A Billionaire. So, Hedgehog asks, what is the secret? Somers spoke to several people at the top family offices in the land, and the book contains a wealth of knowledge and inside tips. ‘But,’ he adds, ‘one of the best ways of all is if you happen to know them already.’

***

Lord Bell’s secret software

Fond recollections of the late PR guru Lord Bell (Tim Bell) abounded as Hedgehog clinked glasses with the finest reputation managers in the land. ‘He was charisma personified,’ says one former protégé who was hired after a chance meeting in an airport lounge. By this time, Bell Pottinger’s main once had moved to Holborn, but Bell – Lady Thatcher’s favourite PR man – still preferred to strategise from a bolthole above a coffee shop on Curzon Street. ‘He said I could come by whenever I wanted,’ remembers the flack. ‘So I did.’

Every time the junior man visited, he would do his best to divine Bell’s process. ‘He came from an advertising background, so was always thinking of “The Big Idea”.’ Using only his outstretched index fingers, Bell would tap slowly on his computer keyboard, pausing for long drags on a cigarette. ‘He would usually come up with something brilliant,’ says the flack, ‘so I was desperate to know what program he was using.’ After several visits, he plucked up the courage to ask.

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‘It turned out, he was just putting words into Google. There was nothing more to it than that, but he was so intuitive – it worked.’

***

Insurance job

What price the perfect penis? It’s a question few in the insurance industry have had to answer. But Hedgehog’s man at the mutual found himself having to mull exactly that when a lady client sought to protect her prized asset: a solid silver, full-scale replica of her husband’s member. After careful consideration, an estimate of £12,000 was eventually firmed up.

***

FORMER LONDON Stock Exchange chief Xavier Rolet and his wife Nicole have established a totally organic, biodynamic and award-winning winery in their native France, Chêne Bleu. Now the couple are inviting crowdfunding investors to take an active role in the next stage of the vineyard’s development, which will include the building of several apiaries, as well as what they describe as a ‘sustainaBEElity and BEE-o-diversity initiative’.

But what’s the buzz about bees? ‘They operate as networks and allocate tasks in a disciplined fashion,’ says Rolet (pictured above), who is now CEO of asset manager CQS. ‘And they are incredibly resilient to attack.’ Sounds as if they’d do a decent job of running a hedge fund too.

***

‘CRYING THERAPY’? ‘Conscience transformation’? ‘Finding your tribe’? It might sound like a prescription for recovering Corbynistas, but these are just some of the entries on HSBC’s new ‘Enrich List’. The people at HSBC Jade, the bank’s service for its most valued clients, have amassed a portfolio of experiences designed to acknowledge that ‘attitudes towards wealth and what we value most have changed.’

Most intriguing is perhaps the chance to join the Kayapó tribespeople in the Amazon rainforest to daub oneself with traditional body paint and learn ancient hunting techniques. And, even if you fail to catch anything, there’s a private chef on hand. That’s Hedgehog’s kind of adventure.

***

THE HANGMAN’S noose last dispatched a convicted murderer in Britain 56 years ago, but that doesn’t stop the occasional call for the reintroduction of capital punishment. Step forward retired High Court judge Paul Worsley QC, who sat at court Number One of the Old Bailey for ten years. ‘There are some very evil people about,’ Worsley tells Hedgehog at the launch of his true crime book, The Postcard Murder – A Judge’s Tale.

‘In some extreme circumstances, perhaps someone blowing up a whole plane full of innocent people – there is an argument to be advanced that capital punishment should be reinstated.’ Alas, Worsley sighs: ‘I think no juries these days would convict people of murder. Juries would be more likely to find that there was a reason for reducing murder to manslaughter, abnormality of mind for example.’How many truly evil people did he deal with in 30 years on the bench? ‘Not so many, so I wouldn’t be advocating execution of very many people. But,’ Worsley adds, ‘I have seen some evil people in my life.’

***

Geronimo!

IF THE global economy is an aeroplane, then ‘we are flying on one engine,’ said Pictet Wealth Management’s CIO Cesar Perez Ruiz. Speaking at Mark’s Club in Mayfair, Perez Ruiz added: ‘The Elizabeth Warren nomination would switch that engine off .’ Hedgehog made a note in his diary to go shopping for a parachute before 3 March this year, which is ‘Super Tuesday’ – the day when we are likely to learn whether the Democrats have given Warren the nod.

This piece is from the latest edition of Spear’s magazine, out now. Click here to buy  and subscribe

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