Inventing is tough, but branding is hell

For a company fond of flaunting its originality, the boffins at Philips clearly have not got everything figured out.

Imagine their surprise to discover that every one of a staggering 1,400 names they dreamt up as monikers for the Dutch company’s newly independent chip business – launched at a trade fair in Berlin on Friday – was already registered or in use.

“I thought inventing a product took time, but it’s nothing compared with finding a name,” sighed Frans van Houten, chief executive. A dedicated internal team, with help from Verse, a trendy New York design agency, tested 2,000 names in multiple languages and bounced ideas off customers across the world.

After much head-scratching Philips chose NXP, which, according to van Houten, communicates “vibrancy and entertainment” but which to Observer sounds like something Microsoft cooked up for an operating system some years ago. He was not willing to say how much it had to pay the previous owner for the right to use the three letters.

Another leak inquiry

It’s not quite on the scale of the tension surrounding the release of a new Harry Potter book but a small drama is being played out about the next instalment in the life of another fictional young boy: Peter Pan.

JM Barrie, the author of Peter Pan, left the copyright to his fictional characters to London’s Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital.

Using these rights, the hospital commissioned a sequel to the famous novel. Peter Pan in Scarlet, by British children’s author Geraldine McCaughrean, is due to be published on October 5, with a glitzy party at Kensington Palace in London.

The excitement has been marred by the revelation of some of the new book’s details in The New York Times this week. The paper saw a copy of the manuscript and concludes approvingly that the tone of the new book is in keeping with Barrie’s. Peter Pan – unlike his portrayal in many cartoons and books published in recent years where he is kind and selfless – is again selfish and “egomaniacal as ever”.

The new book is set in 1926, the Lost Boys are the Old Boys, and they and Wendy Darling have grown up, the paper says. They become children again to return to Neverland, this time with the help of a new fairy, an annoying male one called Fireflyer. Poor Tinker Bell has disappeared.

The hospital and Oxford University Press, the book’s UK publisher, are investigating how the manuscript came to be leaked. The situation will never be repeated. Copyrights run out in 2007. After that, anyone will be able to write a sequel, making Peter as horrid or as nice as they like.

Wedding bells

Warren Buffett has spent much of this year addressing the burning questions that had been on the minds of his followers for years.

In his annual letter to shareholders, he revealed that the Berkshire Hathaway board had “unanimously agreed” on a person to replace him upon his death. And in June, he finally let the world know what he planned to do with his $40bn fortune. He made his first gift to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation last week.

Now he has answered a third question – or at least popped one. Buffett married his longtime companion, Astrid Menks, on Wednesday, which was also the investor’s 76th birthday.

Menks was a cocktail waitress in Omaha when she was introduced to Buffett by Susan Buffett, who separated from her husband in 1977. Susan and Warren Buffett remained married until her death in 2004.

Warren and Astrid apparently had been considering getting married for a while. As one might expect from the no-frills value investor, they have no plans for a honeymoon.

Lukewarm greeting

Why has the US State Department under Condoleezza Rice gone out on a limb by endorsing a US visa for Iran’s former “axis of evil” president, Mohammad Khatami, and then declaring it will refuse to talk to him during his tour of America this month?

More of an opportunist than a strategist, Rice might be waiting to see how the former president fares when he encounters tough questions about Iran’s policy towards Israel and militant groups such as Hizbollah and Hamas. Some Iran-watchers are even suggesting that while the official door is closed to Khatami himself, other members of his entourage might get more favourable treatment.

A good many Iranian officials, former and current, studied in the US before and after the 1979 Islamic revolution – one reason why the Iranian side often displays a subtler understanding of the US than vice-versa. Rice had a long stint in academia herself. Admittedly she specialised in the Soviet Union but her teaching also included the relations of the “evil empire” with the Middle East. Could there be any attempt at a classroom reunion?

Gold fever

The gold bugs were out in force on Thursday as Vancouver-based Goldcorp announced its proposed $8.6bn acquisition of Glamis Gold of Nevada.

Shrugging off analysts’ concerns about the deal’s risks for Goldcorp shareholders, the two companies’ chief executives, Ian Telfer and Kevin McArthur, expressed unalloyed confidence in the yellow metal. One merrily predicted that the gold price, currently at around $625 an ounce, would rise by another $200 within the next few months, on its way to a four-digit number.

Telfer, acknowledging that he was making a “forward-looking statement”, all but assured his audience that Glamis would boost estimates of reserves at its big Penasquito project in Mexico later this year.

Still, some Goldcorp shareholders are nervous.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2018. All rights reserved.

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