Monthly Archives: August 2008

John Gapper

Bromley illustration 

If you feel like a shock, try finding out how many online advertising companies are tracking you every time you use the internet. Read more

John Gapper

It has become so natural to think of Asia economies such as China and India being the new places for business opportunity while western economies struggle that it is easy to miss the way in which this City of London/Wall Street crisis differs from others in the past.

The tendency in the past was for investment banks to pull in towards the centre in the US when markets were troubled. Banks retreated a couple of times in the early 1990s from China during weak periods for the business. Read more

John Gapper

Barbara Amiel’s delayed defence of the actions of herself and Conrad Black, her husband, this weekend in the Sunday Times was worth waiting for.

It has an entertainingly deranged quality since Lady Amiel admits no wrong, on behalf of either of the pair, and is contemptuous about almost everyone else’s behaviour. The facts, she thinks, are on their side.

The fact that the courts did not believe her husband’s story proves their imbecility, in her view.

It is also pleasingly written, combining high dudgeon, amour propre, self-delusion and expansive rhetoric in a wonderful recipe. If anything, she manages to make herself seem more unlikeable than her already fearsome reputation. Read more

John Gapper

It feels quite like old times again with Royal Bank of Scotland sustaining a £691m loss for the first half of the year and Sir Fred Goodwin, its chief executive, promising not “to do this job forever”.

UK banks are now suffering from credit losses on a scale not seen since the early 1990s when the last large property and economic downturn hit the UK and, as it happened, I had just become a banking correspondent.

So, given this excuse to go down memory lane, here are a couple of thoughts about how the past compares with the present. Read more

John Gapper

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My FT column this week is on the e-book rivalry between Sony’s Reader and Amazon’s Kindle: Read more

John Gapper

I suppose you can’t argue with the market but I do wonder about the price Motorola has paid to lure Sanjay Jha from Qualcomm to become chief executive of its troubled mobile phone division.

Mr Jha apparently wanted to be the chief executive of a public company – and doubted whether Paul Jacobs was going to move over at Qualcomm – but his pay and benefits package is reminiscent of a private equity deal.

Motorola plans to spin off its mobile phone arm and, if it does, Mr Jha gets to own 3 per cent of the company. If it does not, he will be paid $30m to compensate him for his time and trouble. His entire package is estimated as being worth up to $94m. Read more

John Gapper

There is a fascinating piece in Fortune magazine about Jimmy Cayne, the former chairman and chief executive of Bear Stearns, by William Cohan, the author who is working on a book about the credit crisis.

The most interesting aspect of it is that Mr Cayne himself talks candidly about how he failed to prevent Bear from collapsing and having to be rescued by the Federal Reserve and JP Morgan Chase.

One reason was that he was in no physical condition to do so. He collapsed from a prostate infection last September and lost 30 pounds in weight while in hospital recovering. He was 73 at the time.

But the other is that, as Mr Cayne himself admits, he was the wrong man for the job. His background as a broker, trader and card player did not give him much insight into the chaos in credit markets and he compounded matters by firing Warren Spector, the man who ran Bear’s trading operations. Read more

John Gapper

I have written the second part of the series running this week on the credit crisis, entitled The Big Freeze. My piece is about the future of banking and what are the prospects for independent investment banks.

It starts like this: Read more