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FD scuppers van Kneestelrooy

We were fascinated to see which member of the management team handled the public relations at Manchester United (plc) during the attempt to sign Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy, who had a knee problem.

Both the usual suspects, manager

Sir Alex Ferguson and publicity-friendly chairman Martin Edwards, were conspicuous by their absence during the press conference on the delay of the £19m transfer, so finance director David Gill stepped forward, proving that all those presentations to City analysts and institutional shareholders had given him a love of the limelight.

This was a situation where any potential liability needed to be communicated in order to maintain effective investor relations. And when the deal fell through there was a ready explanation – it was clearly a joint venture Gill couldn’t countenance.

Editor shows off safe pair of hands

The second annual ‘board meeting’ of UK plc (see page 33) was about as realistic an affair as possible.

The event, organised by PeopleSoft and sponsored by Financial Director, was a change from the usual multi-disciplinary conferences in that the chairman and other board members frequently interrupted whichever director was making a presentation to ask questions, demand clarification – and even fight for territory.

But board meeting procedure was momentarily tipped on its head when, returning after a coffee break, chairman Nick Ross accidentally hit the leg of the table with his knee, very nearly knocking the whole thing off the stage at the Royal Society of Arts. Luckily, the FD, our own (temporarily absent) editor restored order: ‘Chairman, we’re supposed to table the motion,’ he corrected, ‘not ‘motion’ the table.’

The boring truth about FDzzz

Our friends at sister title Accountancy Age have published research showing that FDs don’t admit to being accountants at parties because it’s regarded as ‘too boring’.

The survey, conducted by Reed Personnel, found that FDs were afraid they’d be asked for personal financial advice, although a swift discourse on the impact of FRS 10 might put questioners off, we suspect. They’d still think FDs were boring, but at least they wouldn’t go on about pensions or penny shares.

The problem is that not only are accountants regarded as dull, but a recent survey reveals that even CEOs don’t have as high an opinion of FDs as most FDs do (see page 51).

Now obviously this is dreadful PR. But there is a way to rebut it. We can vouch for the fact that finance movers-and-shakers really do know how to move and shake: just take a look at the dance floor on the P&O ship Oriana when the next Richmond Events FD Forum sets sail at the end of June.

No such thing as bad publicity?

The kind folk at Presswatch (, as if you couldn’t guess) inform us that April was the cruellest month for… Well, you might have thought that BMW would have had the most negative press, but you wouldn’t even be close. The German factory-closers scored minus-674 on the Presswatch scale, but this was dwarfed by the real stinkers at Microsoft (minus-1232) and Barclays, with a whopping minus-3015. Closing rural bank branches, it seems, it far more heinous than flogging Rover for a tenner.

Incidentally, the best corporate reputation score for April was by Tesco, which amassed 757 Presswatch points. If the best score is 757 and the worst minus-3015, perhaps it’s true that no news is good news (and vice versa)…

This train is breaking up what’s left of the rail network

It pains us to report that neither art editor Peter Drake nor acting editor Richard Young won their respective categories at the PPA magazine awards thingummy. (We can’t remember exactly what it was called, so it obviously wasn’t that important anyway.)

But Richard soon got back to the business of writing with this month’s Financial Director interview, which involved a prolonged trip up to York to speak with GNER FD Phil Pacey.

Service on the GNER train was excellent, although the journey was marred by an almost complete failure of the Northern Line (this was, ironically, the day of the London mayoral elections) which meant he missed his scheduled train.

Then the GNER service itself was halted for 15 minutes at Peterborough – although we can’t blame GNER for the fault. It seems that Railtrack’s overhead cables just couldn’t handle the tension. (Maybe they thought the train should take the strain.)

Red alert for crashing markets

No self-respecting FD would ever spend all day surfing the Internet looking for interesting or vaguely amusing finance-related Web sites. So it’s a good job that Financial Director’s dedicated staff do it for you.

The big hit in the FD office this month is the Map of the Market ( which is a graphical representation of a big chunk of the US stock markets.

Unlike previous attempts to show company values, results and market performance in an instantly readable graphic form, this actually works. Each company is simply a rectangle – the bigger the area, the higher the market cap. When the shares are down, the rectangle goes red, and when they’re up, green – the more vivid the colour, the sharper the price movement.

Which means, of course, that a bad day really does look like a bloodbath. Return to the Financial Director website

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