Last updated: October 12, 2007 4:23 pm

Charles Pretzlik: Virgin’s Rock band, The Traveling Wilburys

The Virgin-led consortium which this afternoon unveiled plans to bid for Northern Rock may look like the Traveling Wilburys of finance – but they’re a serious bunch. Apart from Sir Richard Branson, the team includes Sir George Mathewson (ex-chairman of RBS and now chairman of Toscafund), Wilbur Ross (arch-turnaround expert), Victor Chu (First Eastern Investment Group), and – get this – Peter Norris, who was the last head of investment banking at Barings, is advising the consortium alongside James Lupton of Greenhill.

The consortium have issued a press release which leaves many questions still be answered. In a nutshell, though, this is the plan. Virgin injects little tiny Virgin Money (complete with name) in return for equity in Northern Rock. The consortium (presumably the non-Virgins, which also include AIG) will inject cash in return for new equity at a discount to the market rate.

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The whole show would be run by Jayne-Anne Gadhia, chief executive of Virgin Money and previously managing director of RBS Mortgages but presumably Sir George would be chairman. Northern Rock shares, which would remain listed, are up nearly 4 per cent. With a team like this, plus the brand, Virgin’s Rock band must have them dancing in the hallways at the Treasury.

In fact it’s been a busy afternoon. Rank shares have fallen by a fifth following a profit warning. This of confirms my (now very old) joke about this company being appropriately-named. The company is blaming the smoking ban and the loss of jackpot terminals, which the government has banned.

Barclays says profits at its Barclays Capital investment bank in September were substantially ahead of the previous two months, when a credit crunch hurt business. Income and profits at BarCap, BGI and the private banking were “well ahead of last year”, it says.

The other big story today remains the stock market, where the rally seemed to fade overnight. Or did it? The FTSE 100 is off its lows for the day and the Dow Jones opened slightly higher.

Property veterans Ray Mould and Patrick Vaughn are back, listing their London & Stamford Property business on Aim with an expected market cap of £250m.

Nigel Turner – ex-Lazard, ex-ABN Amro – is about to be ex-Numis. He said today he was retiring as deputy chairman after two years. Has there been a bust-up? Odd that they didn’t announce this with the trading update the other day.

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