CLIFFORD CHANCE’S MR GRUMPY PASSES OVER HIS MR MEN MANTLE

IT WAS farewell to a City legend at the end of last week, when Michael Smyth CBE – head of public policy at Clifford Chance – hung up his legal briefcase for the last time.

Smyth has been a partner at the Magic Circle giant for 26 long years, and has fingers in numerous do-gooding pies as well, leading the firm’s pro bono programmes and chairing whistleblowing charity Public Concern at Work, among other interests.

Like so many top businessmen, Smyth has something of a reputation as a hard task master, or so his underlings tell me – so much so that a few years ago, a group of them bought him a “Mr Grumpy” Mr Men book as a joke, as they thought they could never please him no matter how good their work.

No surprise, then, that the legal eagles cottoned on to this when picking out a leaving present for him – a Mr Happy book, to wish him a merry retirement.

Quick as a flash, Smyth replied by sending an email around the firm asking who Clifford Chance’s next Mr Grumpy should be, and asking for nominations from junior lawyers. Apparently, he’ll be willing to hand over the original Mr Men book as a sort of “bible” from which his successor can draw inspiration…

TROPHY ASSET
Irrepressible Mayor of London Boris Johnson was in touch on Friday, after he scooped the headline personality of the year accolade at City A.M.’s very first awards ceremony the night before.

Boris, whose victory elicited the biggest cheer of the night from the 450-odd guests in attendance at the ultra-modern new Grange Hotel at St Pauls, had installed his new gong in pride of place on his groaning trophy shelf – proof that the Mayor will remain proud and committed to his self-styled role as the champion of London’s financial services community for as long as he “has breath in [his] body”, as he told the audience…

DRINKING UP
The fine wine market in the East is positively booming at the moment, as evidenced by yet another record set at a Hong Kong auction last week.

A case of the Chateau Lafite Rothschild 2009 vintage went for an astonishing £43,000 – three times more expensive than it would be in London – after a frenzied round of bidding, according to Bordeaux Index. Certainly bodes well for Asia’s biggest wine exhibition, the Hong Kong International Wine and Spirits Fair, beginning today…

LET IT SNOW
How do you link debt reduction to annual snowfall? It’s easier than it sounds, if the boffins at the National Bureau of Economic Research have anything to do with it – in a recent working paper, the organisation argued that reducing a debt overhang improves borrowers’ incentives and performance, using a sample of Austrian ski hotels undergoing debt restructurings to prove its point.

“The vast majority of the hotels experience substantial debt forgiveness, resulting in significant reductions in leverage of about 23 per cent on average,” the paper says. “Changes in leverage during the debt restructurings are instrumented with the level of snow in the years prior to the debt restructurings, based on the argument that if a ski hotel had only little snow in the years prior, then the causes for the hotel’s distress are more likely exogenous. The effect of snow is both statistically and economically significant: a one-standard deviation increase in snow is associated with a reduction in leverage of about 23 per cent on average...”