Mudlark: Under which Shell a new chairman?

Now that Royal Dutch Shell has its date for unification, it’s time to turn attention to the next task, finding a new chairman. Aad Jacobs intends to stand down at the 2006 annual meeting, when the board wants to have an external candidate ready to take his place. The search is being led by Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, deputy chairman and senior independent director.

But Mudlark understands that some candidates have raised a surprising objection – none of them wants to live in The Hague, a requirement seen as non-negotiable. In the case of US candidates, there’s a cheeky temptation to blame the proximity of the International Court of Justice. But even Lloyds TSB chairman Maarten van den Bergh, were he not disqualified by already being on the board, is said not to be keen about living in The Hague.

Mudlark also hears that Shell does not necessarily want a UK candidate. Someone from Ireland, English-speaking but “neutral”, might be preferable. But the list of appropriate candidates appears to begin and end with Sir Gerry Robinson, whose days as chairman of Allied Domecq may be numbered because of the respective takeover ambitions of Pernod Ricard and Constellation Brands.

Samuel Johar, chairman of headhunter Buchanan Harvey, has a provocative name to throw into the ring. What about Lord Patten, whose European commitment and political skills are beyond doubt? As one of the fathers of the proposed European Union constitution, Kerr is well acquainted with Patten.

Full to the brim

A Heineken Cup final featuring two French teams may not be what British rugby fans wanted. But it is good news for Heineken France – and not just for the obvious reason.

On the other side of La Manche, a law banning the advertising of alcohol means that the tournament is known as the H Cup.

When French teams play at home, it is this H Cup to which perimeter advertising refers, while retaining a similar look to the uncensored hoardings in other countries.

On Sunday, however, Toulouse and Stade Français – which boasts a flanker called Rémy Martin – will be playing at Murrayfield. This should ensure that a bumper French television audience is exposed to the cup’s unexpurgated title. A case of reaching the eyeballs other beers cannot reach?

Super conductor

Mudlark has only once had the pleasure of meeting Valery Gergiev, introduced in his Covent Garden dressing room by a friend who had interviewed the Russian conductor while researching a book about great opera houses.

“Maestro!” “Larry!”

“Maestro!” “Larry!”

It was a moment that popped into mind as Credit Suisse this week launched its sponsorship of the 2005 tour of the World Orchestra for Peace, founded by Sir Georg Solti 10 years ago and now conducted by Gergiev. The orchestra will play four concerts in seven days – at the BBC Proms in London on August 27, followed by Berlin the next day, Moscow on August 30 and Beijing on September.

The opera house book, like world peace, has never come to fruition. But that doesn’t mean that they’re not goals worth pursuing.

Troc on the block

Two bidders remain in the frame to buy the Trocadero Centre at Piccadilly Circus. Each has offered more than £215m. But a joint bid by Robert Tchenguiz and Sir Stuart Lipton’s Stanhope is not one of them, despite their innovative plan to develop a 600-room budget hotel. Property gossips suggest the remaining duo may be Goldcrest, an overseas investment and development group, and Golfrate Property Management, its Middle Eastern rival. But don’t rule out the ever-present Irish.

Red-M is ready

Red-M, the wireless security provider preparing to float on Aim, may have good news for some of the telecommunications experts facing redundancy from Marconi. Karl Feilder, Red-M’s chief executive, plans to cherry pick some of Marconi’s finest brains. Red-M already counts the White House among its customers. Feilder is conducting an institutional roadshow this week, although presumably not on his Harley-Davidson.

Trophy bidder

Alan Parker, Whitbread’s chief executive, is training for a charity triathlon taking in a 1km swim, a 10km run and a 40km bicycle ride. He runs every morning from his Belgravia flat to Whitbread’s Old Brewery offices on Chiswell Street. Over a healthy alcohol-free lunch the other day, Parker confessed that he needed to step up his training regime. But with Whitbread relocating its head office to Luton, he needs to find somewhere else to run. Unless he rides his bike up the M1.

Locusts eat grass

Private Equity Allstars, a football team put together by Permira managing partner Damon Buffini, were outscored 7-3 in a match this week against the Out of Towners, made up of property developers. Players pay for team places and have raised £250,000 for the Variety Club in three years.

Will and Phil

Morgan Stanley has renewed its sponsorship of London’s Old Vic Theatre – Kevin Spacey, artistic director – for another year.

Philip Purcell, the US investment bank’s embattled chairman and chief executive, may find especially poignant one of the roles that Spacey will essay in the new season – Shakespeare’s Richard II.

“Yet well I remember the favours of these men. Were they not mine? Did they not sometime cry ‘All hail’ to me? So Judas did to Christ. But he in twelve found truth in all but one; I, in twelve thousand, none.”

mudlark@ft.com

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