British Casino Association looks for sure bet to succeed Lady Cobham - Monday 9th of February 2009

Lady (Penny) Cobham is standing down as chairman of the battered British Casino Association. The BCA has lost two of its biggest members and a large chunk of income with the recent departure of Gala Coral and Rank, the latter apparently in a cost-saving exercise, but the association insists this is in no way linked to her departure. “She was going to stand down in December but they asked her to stay on for a bit,” a spokesman says.

Cobham, perhaps better known as David Mellor’s other half, is to be the chairman of VisitEngland, the tourism promotion body, from April. Her departure in the spring from the BCA is, oddly enough, not mentioned on her page on the organisation’s website. Officially, they are seeking a successor, but their spokesman talks about the need to respond to the economic situation and consider “the construct of the BCA”, which suggests the search may not be pursued too vigorously. Industry sources suggest that her salary at the BCA was not too far off £160,000, though the spokesman could not confirm this. It would go some way towards making up those lost subscriptions.

Planning for the future in the craftiest of ways

The following rather sweet e-mail is doing the rounds at ING’s New York office. “In these difficult economic times, everyone is harking back to times gone by when people made things and were creative with their hands.” There follows an invitation from the Learning at Lunch programme for “How To Knit” with the retired ING staffer Esther Roos, who will both teach novices and “improve the skill set of those employees who have not mastered the really difficult stitches and want to improve their current knitting techniques”. In these times, what a good idea for bankers to have something useful to trade when we finally go back to the age of barter.

— Surveillance: a reader is sitting in a first-class carriage into London, fare a whopping £250. “I was surprised to be sitting among lots of civil servants.” Who are these public servants, for whom clearly nothing but the best is enough? “To my right a Welsh training team who kept talking about their job centre targets and budgets on their way to a meeting in London, to my left Foreign Office-headed paper.”

— Try to book a flight on Ryanair and a whole load of ads appear on the relevant page on the website. There are various cheap flights to the same destination, including from rival easyJet. Should we tell Michael O’Leary, the famously fiery Ryanair boss? Best not, he’d only shout at us. Let him find out by himself.

Surely it was going too far?

In the blue corner: Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo used to line up with the guys in the white hats, but no more, it seems. Founded after the California Gold Rush but now a bank based in the same state, Wells Fargo has called off a “recognition event” for staff – four days of luxury in Las Vegas. This is hard to reconcile with the $25 billion that the bank has taken in public bailout money.

The bank tried to defend the jaunt, saying that it was “a four-day business meeting and recognition event for hard-working team members who made home ownership achievable and sustainable for borrowers across the nation”.

Those set to attend wrote $230 billion in mortgages last year. But aren’t we in the trouble we’re in partly because of too free mortgage lending? The bank concluded: “We do not plan to have any other recognition events this year.”

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