Alex Brummer

Charity - a funny old business

By Alex Brummer, January 6, 2011

When it comes to giving, British companies are somewhat put to shame by the United States, where several of the country's heavyweights are committing a significant proportion of their wealth to charities.

Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have pioneered a whole new approach to philanthropy.

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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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Banking: Stars and bars

By Alex Brummer, December 13, 2010

Time was when the City of London divided into two separate breeds of banks.

There were the clearing banks founded by Protestant (in the case of Barclays, Quaker) families. And the merchant banks, many (but not all) with Jewish roots.

When Sir Victor Blank was appointed chairman of Lloyds TSB in 2006, before the disastrous merger with HBOS a year later, it was a case of two firsts. He was the first Jewish chairman of a clearing bank and among the first to travel from merchant banking - at Charterhouse (via GUS) - into the rarefied world of high-street banking.

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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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Trains that run on crime

By Alex Brummer, November 19, 2010

There are few more potent images of the Shoah than The Cattle Truck, immortalised in Jorge Semprun's 1960s novel. Yet, only now, seven decades after the transports of Jews from every corner of Europe to the death camps, are the railway authorities being forced to come to terms with their Nazi past.

The French state railway, SNCF, has for the first time publicly expressed its regret for conveying Jews to Nazi death camps in the Second World War. Previously, SNCF had claimed that it had been "forced" into the deportations by Nazi occupiers.

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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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Israel's unreported war

By Alex Brummer, October 7, 2010

One of the great features of a civilised state is the willingness to accept that mistakes can be made and investigate them.

At times, the Israeli authorities may have to be dragged kicking and screaming into probes - as in the celebrated case of the shooting of student photographer Tom Hurndall in 2006. But, like all democracies, Israel is sensitive to political and diplomatic pressure.

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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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Tea Party may help Israel

By Alex Brummer, September 21, 2010

The arrival of the Tea Party as an American force has shaken the US political establishment. It is a sea change, compared by commentators such as Gerald Seib in the Wall Street Journal as similar to the arrival of the conservative movement headed by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.

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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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EU corridors of prejudice

By Alex Brummer, September 7, 2010

Of all the institutions in Germany, the Bundesbank, the nation's central bank, is the one which likes to think itself above politics. It may be less powerful than before the creation of the euro, but its influence on the European Central Bank and economic policy is considerable. The last thing the Bundesbank needed was a renegade member - in the shape of Thilo Sarrazin, 65, a former top finance official in the Berlin city government - spouting off.

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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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The dangers of a Wikimedia

By Alex Brummer, August 26, 2010

Wikipedia is one of those websites which quietly has changed the way that people interact with the internet. For journalists, academics and ordinary consumers, it is often the first port of call for research. It is an organic encyclopaedia which for many providesan early draft of history.

It also defines events. It was academics debating on Wikipedia who decided that the 2006 conflagration between Israel and Hizbollah should be officially known as the 2006 Lebanon War.

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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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Up in arms over Saudi deal

By Alex Brummer, August 12, 2010

The disclosure by the Israel-friendly Wall Street Journal that the Obama Administration is preparing to sell advanced Boeing F-15 fighter jets to Saudi Arabia should not come as a major surprise. In recent months there have been unconfirmed reports in the American and Israeli media that a deal of this kind was in the offing. Nevertheless, it will lead to anxiety in Washington, Jerusalem and beyond.

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The crisis in Euroland is far from over

By Alex Brummer, July 22, 2010

The untroubled scene is the open air breakfast restaurant at a luxury new resort hotel on Greece's bay of Navarone, developed - after three decades of planning - by a shipowner. Just in case the guests are too lazy to walk to the main swimming baths or down to the beach many of the rooms have their own infinity pools.

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When the blogs don't work

By Alex Brummer, July 15, 2010

It used to be that journalists told it as it was and did their best not to be emotionally involved in stories. The late Richard Dimbleby famously reported on the horrors of a liberated Auschwitz using stark language but without shedding a tear.

But when Yasir Arafat died in November 2004, BBC correspondent Barbara Plett was lachrymose on From Our Own Correspondent. It may be no accident that not long afterwards she was given a different beat.

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