Mudlark: Start hanging the mistletoe

Is Friends Reunited trying to chivvy ITV along? The broadcaster’s courtship of Barnet’s answer to Ebay has been played out in the press but it has yet to be consummated in an official takeover announcement.

On Wednesday, a press release arrived from Friends Reunited Dating, which has signed up 400,000 lonely hearts in two years. Anyone lacking a date for Christmas must start looking today or “statistics show” it will be too late.

Apparently “it takes most people 45 days to get from starting looking to going steady”. Rhoda Moore – job title head of romance – warns: “Today is D-Day for singles who want serious mistletoe action from Christmas Eve through to new year.

“Christmas may be the worst time to be single – but it’s also the best time to get a date,” she says. “Use of our dating site increases by 25 per cent from the start of November until Christmas Eve.”

In other words: Charles Allen – don’t be shy.

By the neck

The peculiar tradition at Robert Wiseman Dairies of wearing either the company tie or else ties with cows on has been noted before (Mudlark, March 31). Sadly, it slipped this summer even faster than the company’s operating profit – and for much the same reason.

Wiseman has been forced to recruit new truck drivers because of the EU Working Time Directive, which has been part of the reason costs have soared. There is such a shortage of drivers, however, that they have to be treated with kid gloves.

Forcing them to wear a tie didn’t endear Wiseman to its new drivers, though its more established hauliers still apparently keep up the sartorial standards. So out go not just the cow ties but the obligatory company ones too. Moral of the story: Don’t milk the cow too hard. It will kick you.

Greed is back

Anyone looking for evidence the go-go years of the 1980s are returning to the City had to be at last week’s launch party for the UK edition of the popular American finance/lifestyle magazine Trader Monthly.

From the start, the Mayfair bash for the fast-car and fast-money glossy had a Gordon Gekko feel, with sheeny-haired hedge funders in Italian suits mingling with scantily clad gold diggers – some of which, one organiser admitted, were hired “hostesses”. Along with complimentary Chivas Regal, the party even featured a cigar roller, allegedly flown in from Cuba to make stogies for the few unabashed smokers left in the Square Mile.

But the evening really began to feel like the Thatcher years had returned when tassel-wearing strippers made an appearance around 10pm.

The star of the party was Magnus Greaves, himself a London-based trader until he sold his operation to Refco for a reported $50m (fortuitously, the deal closed a year before Refco’s collapse amid an ever-widening scandal).

Greaves has bankrolled both the US edition and the new UK version, alongside backing from global magazine giant Condé Nast.

The premier issue, with a cover featuring Morgan Stanley credit trader Olivier Bourseau leaning against a black Rolls, is on sale now. Price? A whopping £10.

Unhappy campers

Curiously, shares in caravan park operator Parkdean Holidays fell 9.4 per cent at around 3pm on Tuesday. More than an hour later – just before the market closed – Grainger Trust announced it was no longer interested in bidding for the caravan park group.

“Brokers, fund managers et al generally don’t appreciate this as it leaves us making some unpleasant assumptions,” notes Mark Brumby, a leisure analyst at Oriel Securities.

But Parkdean investors who held on had the last laugh. Its statement revealed it had received “a number of approaches” and yesterday the shares regained much of their fall.

Time for tea

Every year, the Lord Mayor chooses a charity to support during his year of office. David Brewer, who takes on the job at the traditional silent ceremony on Friday, has picked the Treloar Trust to be the beneficiary of his fundraising efforts.

It is particularly apposite since the trust, which was founded by a former Lord Mayor of London, Sir William Purdie Treloar during his year of office, is celebrating its centenary.

Sir William called it his “little cripples’ fund” in the language of the day and founded a hospital in Hampshire for London children suffering from non-pulmonary tuberculosis, a common condition at the time. The link with the City has been maintained ever since, with each Lord Mayor in turn being an honorary trustee.

This year the trust has a float in Saturday’s Lord Mayor’s Show, with the theme of the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. Celebrity supporters to look out for are Robert Powell, Michael Aspel in the role of the Mad Hatter and Charlie Dimmock, who will delight her fans by dressing as the White Rabbit.

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