Alex Brummer on Business

Cleaning up the Madoff mess

By Alex Brummer, December 22, 2010

When Bernard Madoff was sentenced to 150-years imprisonment two years ago, the Nobel prize-winning campaigner and writer Elie Wiesel suggested an appropriate punishment for the financier was that he were locked in his cell with a video screen playing a continuous loop of his victims.

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Who's top of the high street?

By Alex Brummer, December 9, 2010

Britain's retailers are heading into the holiday season in a remarkably chipper state. They have had a surprisingly strong year.

In the food sector, Tesco remains steady, Sainsbury's continues to gain ground and Waitrose is challenging Marks & Spencer in the "quality market".

So far, the pre-Christmas sale signs have yet to appear, although many of the supermarket chains, including Morrisons and Asda, are seeking to attract shoppers by offering early discounts on champagne, wines and spirits.

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Strauss-Kahn has Europe on his mind

By Alex Brummer, November 25, 2010

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the suave managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), finds himself at the vortex of the euroland crisis.

Until this spring it was inconceivable that the IMF would become involved in the developed economies of Western Europe except to conduct its annual check-up.

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Murdoch's mountain to climb

By Alex Brummer, November 11, 2010

When the Murdoch family controlled News Corporation launched its £12.3bn bid for the 60 per cent of BSkyB, which it does not own, in June, what a storm it unleashed.

The deal, orchestrated by James Murdoch, who runs News Corp in Europe and is non-executive chairman of BSkyB, was poorly executed and prepared.

First, the price of 700 pence offered was inadequate and galvanised the normally-docile independent directors on BSkyB into action. Secondly, it raised questions of conflict of interest because of James Murdoch's role at News Corp and his job as chairman of BSkyB.

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To QE or not to QE? That is the question

By Alex Brummer, October 28, 2010

The hostility of liberal Nobel prize winning economists Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman to George Osborne's spending review has been palpable.

Krugman describes the Coalition's embrace of austerity as a 'fad'. Nevermind that if Labour had remained in power the cuts would have been almost as painful.

But what if the naysayers are right and the British economy, even after a near 20 per cent depreciation of the pound since the start of the recession, is heading back towards slump?

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The investor with a unique share tactic

By Alex Brummer, October 14, 2010

Michael Grade has not had a great deal of luck with the quoted company sector of late. As executive chairman of ITV he eventually had to give way to Sir Archie Norman (the former Asda boss and Tory front bencher) after presiding over the broadcaster during an advertising drought. Now that he has moved on his successors are enjoying the benefit of an 18 per cent rise in advertising revenues.

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Bank bounce does not mean 'normal'

By Alex Brummer, September 28, 2010

Just 24 months ago, the financial world was in deep crisis brought to the brink by "casino banking". Two Wall Street broker-dealing houses which survived the Great Depression vanished.

Bear Stearns was bought by JP Morgan for a song and Lehman Brothers collapsed and was bought out of receivership by Barclays Capital.

Switzerland's UBS was badly holed and the Royal Bank of Scotland - with a large investment banking arm - ended up 84 per cent owned by the British government.

The recovery of the sector in 2009 looked to have been remarkable.

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The yiddishe roots of M&S and Tesco

By Alex Brummer, September 16, 2010

By the standards of much of the retail sector, the changing of the guard at Tesco has been a relatively low key affair.

There were the inevitable tributes to Sir Terry Leahy who will retire next year and short profiles of the chosen successor Phil Clarke who, like Leahy, started at the very bottom.

But there has been none of the fuss and football-style transfer fees which, for instance, accompanied the arrival of Marc Bolland as chief executive of Marks & Spencer.

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Why BP is key to our national future

By Alex Brummer, September 2, 2010

At a time when great British companies have become easy prey for buyers from all over the world, the sale of BP is no longer outside the bounds of possibility.

The immediate crisis in the Gulf of Mexico may have passed but a shrunken BP, plagued by the possibility of years of litigation, could still be vulnerable.

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Choppy float shouldn't scupper Ocado

By Alex Brummer, August 19, 2010

Successful stock market flotations are difficult at the best of times.

But the reception for internet grocer Ocado - which came to the market late last month- was peculiarly frosty. And this despite the fact that the company was brought to the market by some of the most respected investment banking names in the City.

The initial public offering (IPO) has been a salutary experience for the group's chief executive Tim Steiner.

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