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BIG CURRY FETCHES A FORTUNE FOR ARMY

OFF to the Guildhall yesterday for the Lord Mayor’s annual “Big Curry”, a Bacchanalian feast in aid of ABF The Soldiers’ Charity.

City types in attendance dug deep into their pockets for Britain’s brave soldiers – the event’s committee featured such business luminaries as Lloyd’s of London chairman Lord Levene, Bernard Cazenove, Sir Trevor Chinn and former Lord Mayor Sir David Howard, the chairman of Charles Stanley.

A whopping total of £150,000 was raised for the charity in the end – 50 per cent up on last year – with the live auction drawing colossal bids of £11,000 for a day’s shooting on the Castle Rising estate next to Sandringham; £8,000 for a luxury holiday to Mauritius; £4,000 for a six-man firearms training session with the City of London police, and £5,500 for a day with an Army bomb disposal team, of all things. (They certainly knew how to please the adrenaline junkies, that’s for sure.)

“The financial services industry has been beset with criticism from all sides in recent years,” said Lord Mayor Nick Anstee, “but this event is hugely well supported by the sector and if it shows anything, it is that the City has a heart.”

Hear, hear.

NEW HEIGHTS
Word reaches The Capitalist of a rather interesting development over in foodie land, courtesy of Paris-born restaurateur Pierre Condou – the man behind Paramount, the swanky members’ club at the top of the Centre Point tower.

Only Paramount isn’t actually going to be a members’ club for much longer, since Condou tells me he’s opening up the venue to the wider public on 14 May in order to let everyone enjoy the stunning panoramic views from the restaurant, bar and event space on the 31st-33rd floors of the tower.

“It’s probably fair to say that we opened at a rather peculiar time, with the markets in chaos and banks starting to keel over left, right and centre,” Condou says of his decision to go ahead with the opening in November 2008.

“Paramount has now got right back up to speed and we’re doing well, but throughout this whole period I’ve been fielding phone calls and having to turn down people wanting to have dinner. In the end I just thought, maybe a private members’ club in this climate isn’t the best idea – and also, everyone deserves to experience that space…”

Condou has also drafted in a new head chef, Colin Layfield (who worked with him at L’Odeon) to take Paramount up a notch in the gastronomic stakes. Get booking, ladies and gents.


PROBLEM SOLVED
Astonishing to hear that Dragon James Caan has apparently solved all our economic woes, if publicity surrounding his radio appearance yesterday morning is to be believed.

Said Caan: “The Labour government took a brave step in investing billions to support the banking system but the point is that they invested the nation’s money at the lowest point of the cycle. They bought Lloyds shares at 30p which are today worth 68p. We should use that money to reduce the deficit and not cut vital social services…”

Incidentally, according to UKFI (which should have a pretty good idea, since it manages the taxpayer’s stakes in Lloyds and RBS), the government bought the Lloyds shares at 72.2p (or 63.2p net of the fee paid by the bank to exit the Asset Protection Scheme).

But, that small point aside, we move on to the press release’s conclusion from Caan’s comments, which is that he has apparently “solved the dilemma of the economic deficit at a stroke”.

Piece of pipsqueak, if y’ask me.

TWITTER TOO
Lock up your safes and hang on to your wallets, ladies and gents – for the government is unlikely to stop at plans to whack huge taxes on the City alone.

Accountancy firm RSM Tenon has been calculating the probability of the next government seeking out innovative new ways to take money off UK citizens in the future, and the results make bizarre reading. Apparently, a quick rifle through the archives reveals that taxes in the past have been levied on such mundane things as hats, windows and even facial hair – and Tenon is predicting that innovation will be the key for helping to reduce the fiscal deficit in the future.

Possibilities floated by the firm include levies on mobile phones, social networking or even on Twitter.


HOT TIP
What is it with all the big spenders knocking about this week? Hot on the heels of the group of City boys who spent almost £30,000 in strip club Secrets comes another tale whispered in The Capitalist’s ear, of a Middle Eastern entrepreneur who visited members’ club Aura in Mayfair earlier in the week.

I hear the chap in question – having settled his £8,970 bill (made up to £10,000 with service) – was informed that he had won an all-expenses-paid weekend trip to the Pommery Chateau in Champagne, after buying a jeroboam of Pommery on the night.

Apparently, our generous drinker decided that he didn’t need the prize with a private jet of his own to hand – and promptly made a present of the trip to his favourite member of staff instead, as a tip.


GAG REEL
And finally, an amusing gag, hot off the City gossip mill in the wake of the Prime Minister’s “Bigotgate” gaffe on Wednesday.

What does BIGOT stand for? Brown Is Going On Thursday.