BID WAR BREAKS OUT AT LEHMAN ART SALE

BIDDERS clamoured yesterday afternoon to snap up a piece of banking history, as the art collection from the UK offices of failed bank Lehman Brothers went under the hammer at Christie’s.

The most frenzied bidding took place at the beginning of the auction, organised by administrators PwC, when the name sign from the bank’s reception and a plaque for the opening of the Canary Wharf office were offered up for sale.

Despite the auctioneers expecting the two lots to go for a measly couple of grand each, the reception sign fetched £34,000 and the plaque £23,000, as over 350 people registered their interest both in the auction room and online.

All in all, the auction – including pieces by sculptor Antony Gormley and artist Gary Hume – raised £1.3m, matching the sale’s high estimate (though it’s a drop in the pond compared to the billions owed to creditors). Only two out of 302 lots remained unsold at the end of the day, while one additional lot is still up for sale at a separate auction in a couple of weeks’ time – a photograph by German visual artist Andreas Gursky, expected to fetch up to £150,000.

ROBOT WARS
It was back to the future for a City chum recently, as he turned up to a meeting at Santander’s headquarters in Spain to be greeted by a rather unusual welcome party.

Over there, you see, bankers don’t have to pause from their work to complete such mundane tasks as picking up guests from reception. Instead, the bank actually has an army of robots – I kid you not – to welcome visitors and escort them to the office of whoever they came to see.

Excited by the news, The Capitalist rang up Santander’s UK operations to find out if the futuristic little chaps are coming to Blighty any time soon, to grace the halls of its Triton Square building. Sadly, they’re not – it looks like we’re going to be stuck in the present day just a little while longer.

GET WELL SOON
A piece of extremely painful news reaches The Capitalist regarding Tony Pullinger, deputy director general of the Takeover Panel.

Poor Pullinger was driving near his home a few weeks back when another car careered into the side of him, leaving him with gruesome-sounding foot injuries, two broken ankles and a broken arm.

His fellow Panel deputy director general Charlie Crawshay tells me it’s not clear when Pullinger will be back in the office, though he’s soldiering on regardless with his work load from home (“His brain is working, his red pen is working and the telephone is working,” he says, wryly.)

Here’s wishing the valiant fellow all the best for a speedy recovery.

ROYAL BUTCHER
To the Guildhall yesterday, where Alderman Michael Bear was appointed as the next Lord Mayor of the City of London, to take up office in mid-November (see our story on page 16). In among the ceremonial huffing and puffing was a heartfelt vote of thanks to current Lord Mayor Nick Anstee from HRH Princess Anne, highlighting the work he has put in over the past year as an ambassador for the financial services sector, often speaking out as something of a lone voice championing the City.

Curiously, I’m told the Princess was not actually speaking in her Royal capacity but as a representative of Anstee’s own livery company, of which she has been elected a master – the Worshipful Company of Butchers.

WOMEN FROM VENUS
To the Canary Wharf offices of Barclays yesterday evening for the launch of SmartWoman – a new initiative coined by head of investments Barbara-Ann King to get women more interested in personal finance.

King has two plans to inspire women – a website, www.barclayssmartwoman.co.uk, which aims to get ladies to sign up and become a financial community, advising and welcoming each other – and a glossy magazine, which combines the above with the stories of inspirational women such as Michelle Mone, the founder of Ultimo lingerie and first cover star.

“Women run businesses, hold down high-powered jobs and manage household expenses like pros,” King says, “but for some reason they are not engaging in personal finance. If you look at the way financial literature is presented, it’s usually very dry and completely different to the way women communicate – I wanted to test that and see if, when it’s communicated differently, personal finance can become part of women’s lifestyle…”

HIGH DRAMA
Five minutes of fame late last night for a bunch of legal eagles from Berwin Leighton Paisner, trying their hand at the Hollywood lifestyle.

OK, that’s a bit of an exaggeration – the litigation lawyers in question, partners Simon Clark and Ian De Freitas, associate director Gavin Llewellyn and IP attorney Louisa Fielding, were all just extras in the film, alongside Tamara Quinn and Sarah Monk, who work for BLP’s freelance lawyer scheme Lawyers on Demand.

Still, the lot of them were to be seen popping up all over the BBC1 screening of “French Film”, a comedy directed by Jackie Oudney, from drinking at cocktail parties to coming up an escalator on the Tube.

PLAYING THE GAME
Kudos for rugby player Ben Cohen, who I hear has been busy trading the financial markets with a spread betting account from City Index, as a novel way of making money for charity.

Apparently, Cohen rapidly turned his starting pot of £5,000 into £5,700 – setting the bar high for the next celebrity to have a go, actor and comedian Bill Nighy.