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MEETING OF MINDS AS CITY TITANS PARTNER UP

IT’S not every day you see an alliance struck up between one of the Square Mile’s most outspoken private equity veterans and the only female chief executive of an independent City stockbroker. But when Alchemy Partners founder Jon Moulton yesterday confirmed he had started in his new non-executive chairman role at broker FinnCap, headed up by the gutsy Sam Smith, The Capitalist was intrigued to discover that the feisty pair have already developed a healthy respect for each other.

Moulton, for his part, confesses that Smith was part of the attraction to his new job – for which he will take a 2 per cent stake in FinnCap and work for up to 20 days a year alongside running his new investment vehicle Better Capital – after she chased him all the way to his home in Kent to pitch to him.

“It doesn’t exactly fit with the Moulton mindset not to have any prejudices or views,” he chuckles, “but I have to say she behaves in exactly the same way as her male counterparts in the sector. She’s just as direct and ambitious and straight-talking as the rest of them – apart from perhaps a bit more polite on the language front!”

And Smith herself snorts at the idea she might be intimidated by Moulton, despite the grilling he gave his former Alchemy partners when he resigned last year, claiming he could do it all again, “but better”.

“We just instantly clicked with this mutual respect for each other, and I’ve got to say I’ve not seen anything of that aggressive streak yet,” she laughs. “Though he has told me we’re going to fall out at least once a year, and I’m looking forward to that…”
Brave words indeed.

COMMUTER CHAOS
Can anyone remember the last time any public service engendered such hatred as First Capital Connect’s Thameslink rail franchise has in the City?

I only ask after a reader points out that not only has the service inspired its own dedicated hate-mail webpage – ihatethameslink.co.uk – but it has also stirred irate commuters to petition the government on the Number 10 website to remove the franchise from FCC when its minimum term expires in April.

Gripes about the service range from the standard (cancellations, overcrowding, above-inflation fares and so on) to the ridiculous – the fact that the firm ostensibly refuses to heat the trains even in the sub-zero snowy temperatures seen recently, for example, or that the toilets are without water even in the sleepiest periods.

“It’s enough to make you long to swap your daily commute for the experience of being packed in like cattle on one of those notorious trans-India trains,” grumbles my informant. Golly.

BOTTOMS UP
Talk may be rife of most of the banking community enjoying a bonus heyday similar to the paydays of old, but it seems the City’s restaurants are taking no chances. In pops an email from posh eatery 1 Lombard Street, informing me that the restaurant’s top wines are on offer at up to a third of their normal price, “to chase away the winter blues”. Cue £200 bottles of Cristal for £125, £110 bottles of Chateauneuf du Pape for £85… and even a 1950 Petrus, usually on offer for an eye-popping £1,500, for just £550. Time to wet your whistles in style, ladies and gents.
ode to a haggis

Burns Night is fast approaching us, and with it countless invitations to any number of City venues promising whisky, haggis and bagpipes galore, along with traditional recitals of Scotsman Rabbie Burns’ poetry.

One of the best of the bunch, of course, is Boisdale – in Belgravia or on Bishopsgate – which is offering variously-priced Johnnie Walker set menus over the Burns fortnight to tempt would-be revellers through its doors.

I’m told jovial proprietor Ranald Macdonald expects to shift a gut-busting quarter of a tonne of his MacSween haggis over the fortnight – equivalent to 560lb or over a thousand portions of the stuff.
For those not brave enough to try the stuff, a word of advice: drink up, and try not to think about the ingredients...

LIFE OF RILEY
After a turbulent past few years at the head of one of the biggest US banks in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, life in the slow(er) lane is evidently suiting John Mack down to the ground.

Mack – the former chairman and chief executive of Morgan Stanley who relinquished the latter role to James Gorman this month – told a US paper this week that he’s looking forward to spending more time at his Tuscan vineyard after stepping back his responsibilities at the firm.

“I really like my new role,” Mack quipped. “I didn’t come to work until 9.30 today!” Surprisingly nonchalant given the bank reports full-year earnings today...

BOOZY BUSINESS
A smidgeon of earnest investment advice from renowned bear investment strategist Marc Faber, author of the GloomBoomDoom website.

In a recent interview on Bloomberg, Faber insisted the outlook for equities isn’t as rosy as most would have us believe, due to weakness in particular large stocks and the unfavourable dual impact of the US mid-term elections and the fact the year ends in ‘0’ (and no, The Capitalist isn’t quite sure why that should make a difference either).

“We have to take a holiday,” Faber proclaimed, before singing the praises of Thai Beverage, a company which apparently produces a fine beer and an ever better local whisky.

“That’s the cheapest way to get drunk on little money… the efficiency of that whisky is very high,” he argues.

And who are we to argue with that sterling logic?