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Extraordinary items

Brainy FD does himself out of a job

Some FDs are just too good at the job. At least, that’s the charitable explanation as to why Mark Harford departed as FD of new economy incubator Brainspark.

We spoke with Harford in our February issue, asking about Brainspark’s funding criteria in the wake of the dotcom tumble. He told us: “When we invest, we look for three things. Most important is an experienced management team.” The success of this policy is now there for all to see. Harford and chief operating officer Alwyn Welch left at the end of February – and both vacancies are being filled by one of those experienced managers, namely Jasper Judd, a director at Brainspark investee Easyart.

HMG faces bankruptcy.

We have enjoyed teasing new Labour over its “annual reports” which fail to adhere to anything like the basic principles of accountability. There isn’t even a list of the cabinet members and the financials stuff is pretty Mickey Mouse, too.

So we were understandably excited to come across a book entitled Did Things Get Better? An audit of Labour’s successes and failures (Penguin, #6.99). Of course, being written by Guardian writers Polly Toynbee and David Walker, it perhaps isn’t the entirely impartial opinion that one might expect from, say, a leading audit firm – or, for that matter, a barrister with no ambitions to be a QC. But it’s an interesting – and critical – read. Needless to say, its conclusion is that HM Government’s annual report can certainly be compiled on a going concern basis.

Or can it? We stopped in our tracks when we saw this headline in the FT a few weeks ago: “HMG calls in receivers as Dixon warns”. Gordon Brown wasn’t all that imprudent in his Budget, we thought. But, of course, the HMG in this story was a motor trade business that applied the brakes too late.

Last one in the boardroom is MD!

Two nations divided by a common language, as Churchill famously said of Britain and the US. Hence, there are a number amusing English-American dictionaries about, not least the one we found on the web at

It helpfully explains such easily confused words as bonnet, boot and braces for the benefit of the Yanks. But we were particularly amused by the definition of the word “bagsie”:

“bagsie v. To bagsie something is to stake your claim for it. As usual, when my hopeless grasp of the language fails me I shall resort to examples. You’d hear it in sentences like ‘Bagsie first go on the dodgems!’. It’s a rather childlike sentiment; you would be less likely to hear ‘I bagsie being financial director’.” Really?

Martha, my dear…

More tales from the virtual world. investors are, as Peter Williams says on page 27, aggrieved that the company is not being quite as open as they would like about how it makes its money – sorry, its losses.

It particularly hurts given that the share price is about 90% lower than at its peak. Martha Lame Stocks told The Guardian that she is pained at the “huge disconnection between investor sentiment and customer satisfaction. Brent (Hoberman) and I would like to do something for the poor shareholders who bought in and now find themselves sitting on paper losses…” This is a nice sentiment – but it might be worth reminding one of Management Today’s “most powerful women” that these shareholders weren’t “poor” before they bought shares in her company.

Not so smart, Wallis.

There are some days when it just ain’t worth going to work.[QQ] In February, the board at SSL International – the group formed from the merger between the Scholl footcare and Durex condoms companies – had one of those days. Bad enough that the company had to issue its second profit warning in three months. Worse, the directors “invited” chief exec Iain Cater to fall on his sword, while the shares looked flaccid as they slumped to less than half their September 2000 level.

But what really hurt was that the announcement to the London Stock Exchange referred to chairman Stuart Wallis as “Smart Wallis”. And then the profit warning somehow neglected to include the word “profit”; it appeared in an amendment.

A flatfooted performance if ever there was one.

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