ALL CHANGE AT LLOYD’S AS IT RINGS 25 YEARS

IT MAY seem like only yesterday for many City veterans, but today marks 25 years since the first managing agents moved into the landmark Lloyd’s building on Lime Street.

So happy anniversary to the insurance giant, which still shows traces of more than 300 years of Lloyd’s history, such as the famous Lutine Bell, which was salvaged from the wreck of HMS Lutine, the frigate that landed Lloyd’s with one of its first major insurance claims when it sank carrying bullion in 1799.

The bell is rung today by Dave Hughes, one of the insurance firm’s “waiters”, whose role dates back to 1688 at Lloyd’s first incarnation as Edward Lloyd’s coffee shop, where marine insurers met to write cover for the ships of the day.

Mobile phones and the internet have ended the days when waiters were the criers of market-changing news, and the Lutine Bell – once used to alert the market whether ships had returned safely or had been found wrecked on the rocks – is now only used for ceremonies.

The bell rings twice for good news and once for bad, such as after Princess Diana’s death in 1997. “We had a condolence book and the queue went right around the building,” Hughes recalled.

Hughes also witnessed the only time the bell has been rung three times: the day Lloyd’s celebrated surviving the company’s near-collapse in 1995 after its £3.2bn restoration plan. Sixteen years later, and still – thankfully – a one-off.

BARGAIN BASEMENT
THE FALL-OUT from the freezing of the Libyan Investment Authority’s (LIA) assets continues, as The Capitalist hears the advisers for the LIA’s London property portfolio are having a hard time securing tenants.

Ordinarily, office space at 14 Cornhill opposite the Bank of England would be one of the most desirable business addresses in the City. But not when all rents paid sit indefinitely in a bank account frozen by the Treasury, and the Libyan landlord issue prevents any business dealing with the US.

As a result, the building’s property manager James Andrews has given its latest leaseholder, environmental consultancy RPS, two years rent free.

The company joined Aviva Investors, Vestra Wealth and Russian bank VTB as a Cornhill tenant when it signed a ten-year lease on 20 March, but it will only contribute service charges and business rates until 2014, when it will start paying rent of £35 per square foot.

The deal was struck after discussions with the directors of Ashton Global Investments, the British Virgin Islands vehicle owned by the LIA’s sovereign fund Lafico. Jeremy Grey, managing director of James Andrew, said: “We took the view that it was better to have someone covering the costs rather than leaving the space sitting empty.”

If any other City firms need some cut-price commercial space, The Capitalist hears there is still one retail unit available on the Lombard Street side of 14 Cornhill, marketed by Cushman & Wakefield. Form an orderly queue…

BLAIR TALKS SHOP
What does the M&S food hall have to do with conflict resolution in Palestine? A lot, according to Tony Blair, who made a rare public appearance in London yesterday to discuss the issue with Apax founder Sir Ronald Cohen at an event hosted by trade body UK Israel Business and the Portland Trust.

In between some signature “I’m Tony” hand gestures, Blair paid tribute to audience member Lord Andrew Stone, who has been working on efforts to get UK retailers to buy Palestinian farm produce.

Blair was keen to assure his audience of City grandees, including Sainsbury’s chairman David Tyler, Deloitte rainmaker Neville Kahn and former Lloyds boss Sir Victor Blank that cultivating business links with Palestine will undermine the desire for extremist politics.

But Ronnie Cohen couldn’t resist a jab: “Politicians tend to follow public opinion rather than lead it,” he noted. “We have that tendency in my profession,” Blair agreed cheerily.

MATCH OF THE DAY
THE TEAMS have been drawn up for the City’s fiercest football tournament: the five-a-side Diageo City Challenge in aid of the Stroke Association on Sunday 5 June.

Old scores will be settled on the astroturf at the Bank of England Sports Centre in Roehampton: Sky News City editor Mark Kleinman versus his BBC nemesis Robert Peston, CNBC clashing with Bloomberg and the Financial Times taking on the Wall Street Journal – not to mention the City A.M. squad, who are already “match fit”.

Paddy Power’s online betting will open on Monday, when Sky News, the tournament’s most elderly team, may or may not have the longest odds.

BRIDGING THE GAP
THE CITI headquarters in Canary Wharf was the scene of the launch of the Young Enterprise Build a Bridge Charter, which aims to help young people “cross the bridge between education and work”.

Mark Cahill, MD of Manpower and Nigel Davis, regional director of HSBC, turned out to support the scheme, which is collecting as many signatures as possible from the worlds of business and politics to promote enterprise education. Expect to see Enterprise Studies on the curriculum before the year is out.

MASTERCHEF MENU
A BANK Holiday excursion with a difference. City restaurant High Timber is offering a six-course menu this weekend cooked by Masterchef finalist Tom Whitaker (pictured left), who was snapped up after the show to train under head chef Justin Saunders. For reservations for the £75-a-head offer, call High Timber on 0207 248 1777.