TAXI TYCOON RETURNS FOOT MESSENGERS TO SQUARE MILE STREETS

HAS THE City returned to 1975? Foot messengers, once a familiar sight on the streets of the Square Mile before computers killed them off, returned this week to deliver documents by hand as “the most environmentally friendly couriers in town”.

Harbottle and Lewis, SJD Accountancy and Maxxim Consulting all signed up for the service, which was introduced by Britain’s best-known taxi driver John Griffin, the chairman of Addison Lee, as a partnership with sportswear brand ASICS.

Initially introduced as a trial, demand for the “running couriers” has been so strong that Griffin is considering making them a permanent fixture in the £200m business he founded on April Fool’s Day in 1975. “There may be a whole new market for this service,” he told The Capitalist. “The City is very dense, so it makes sense.”

Addison Lee is on an “upwards spiral”, continued the taxi tycoon, with revenue up 22 per cent for the year to date, lifted by the new iPhone app for mobile bookings – “the single biggest contributor to revenue upturn in the company’s history”. “The days of standing in the street waving your hand to get a cab are over,” declared Griffin.

So there are no plans to launch an IPO for the private company, as Griffin “just doesn’t need the cash”. Not to mention having to answer to pesky investors demanding to know what he is up to next. “We have no plans to float,” he confirmed. “It would kill me to have to answer to shareholders.”

LOSING BATTLE
MEANWHILE, Addison’s Lee’s legal battle to win the right to use bus lanes yesterday came to a disappointing conclusion.

Griffin has been on tenterhooks for weeks to hear whether he would secure the ruling that would persuade the half of the FTSE 100 currently without a corporate Addison Lee account to sign up to his services.

But the courts yesterday refused the firm’s appeal, in a judgment that left the minicab mogul fuming.

“We are only seeking fairness,” said Griffin, who plans to seek a judicial review. “We demand the right to trade on a level playing field with our competitors.”

SLOW AND STEADY
REPORTS have been surfacing in recent weeks that the Bank of England is close to announcing where it will house the staff of the Prudential Regulation Authority, the new body that will emerge from the ashes of the disbanded FSA.

In reality, any revelation is a long way off, said a patient Bank of England mole, who outlined the many layers of red tape that must be dealt with before the BoE can commit to parting with the £20m cash earmarked for the office move.

The Capitalist nodded off somewhere around the “Pre-Legislative Scrutiny Committee” – an earnest mix of MPs and Lords who are working around the clock to meet the “very tight deadline” of 1 December to come up with a report for the government.

But the main point is clear. No lease will be signed until February 2012 at the earliest, so readers keen to hear whether the former Nomura building at King Edward Street or JP Morgan’s old HQ at 20 Moorgate will house the PRA’s estimated 1,000 employees will have to wait. “If we sign a lease, it will be at the time of second reading of the Bill in Parliament,” said the source.

END OF AN ERA
THE Etrusca Restaurant Group, owner of Square Mile restaurants including Taberna Etrusca and Caravaggio in Leadenhall Market, prides itself on being “at the forefront of modern Italian cuisine”. But its lead is slipping after bailiffs Ilchester Estates repossessed its Bow Lane restaurant Zuccato City and changed the locks.

Diners intrigued to see what could have been can visit the unamended listing for the restaurant on ERG’s website where, in an unfortunate turn of phrase given the circumstances, it boasts of Zuccato’s décor of “large images of an era gone by”.

MATCH MAKER
CLIMBING the career ladder by working long hours “can get lonely” empathises former investment banker Salima Manji (pictured below), who set up the London Dinner Club to help City workers meet like-minded single professionals in upmarket surroundings.

“Many people don’t have the time to meet people as they have extremely demanding jobs,” said the ex-Credit Suisse and JP Morgan employee. “This leaves them wondering where to go to meet people.” Look no further than the next “intimate soirée” at Awana in Sloane Square on 15 September. See www.londondinnerclub.org