First class lounge? Check. Fine wine? Check. Life as a grounded passenger is tough, you know

Bad air day

Once again, I found myself in the first class lounge at Heathrow. Large, chilled glass of Chablis in one hand, I patted a gibbering wreck of a client reassuringly on the shoulder with the other. “Hush,” I said. “We won’t be stuck here for long …” Well, you know it’s not often I’m wrong but, on this occasion, I’ve got to hold my hands up. Still, as I said to the client over the second bottle – or was it the third? – things could have been worse. We could have been stuck in the cattle sheds with the screaming hoi polloi. Shudder.

Or indeed, we could have been the organisers of a reinsurance event for the under-40s in Bermuda. Those poor chaps got it in the neck when their two keynote speakers, Michael Butt of Axis and Don Kramer of Ariel Re, were grounded by the blasted ash. All was not lost, though, because Mike McGavick was on the island and apparently able to step in. Phew! Meantime, I bet those under-40s came up with some other ways to entertain themselves.

The builders have ears

I’m more used to relaxing in plush hotel lobbies than skulking around outside. But a funny tale did reach my ears that I thought might entertain you. A journalist pal of mine was on her way to to interview the premier of a certain tax haven, which shall remain nameless, when she noticed a few construction types in fluorescent jackets hanging around outside, muttering into walkie-talkies. All well and good, you might say – but there wasn’t a building site within miles. The plot thickened when she spotted a white van with construction jackets slung casually over the seats – but all the back windows blacked out. Now, we don’t go in for conspiracy theories too much – but that’s got Secret Service written all over it, right? Next time I’m entertaining a few VIP guests, I’ll keep my eyes peeled for the boys in yellow. There’s a few activities on our nights out that I wouldn’t want to reach the ears of any government …

The return of Spitzer?

Regular readers will know I’ve got something of a soft spot for Eliot Spitzer. Okay, okay, he might have given us all a nasty headache over commission, but that was years ago now, and I believe in letting bygones be bygones. Besides, when the old chap got caught with his pants down, I think he suffered punishment enough.

So imagine my joy on hearing speculation that Spitzer could abandon his less salubrious pastimes to return to the heady world of politics. Yep, that’s right. According to Peter Elkind, who’s penned a tome enticingly titled Rough Justice: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer, the old boy still has the cash and connections needed to make it in that dirty old town. If he does, I’ll be the first to raise a glass. And as for the book – I’ll just be reading the highlights (and waiting for the movie).

No yoking matter

I’m not exactly what you might call a culture vulture. But there’s no denying it’s the buzz word on everybody’s lips nowadays. Back in Bermuda at that legendary knees-up (as if!), the WIF, my old mucker Brian Duperreault warned that any merger has only a 50/50 chance of success, often because of incompatible cultures.

And it seems the business of trying to get people to play nicely together has become an industry in its own right. It’s like being a kindergarten teacher but with more jargon. Consultants were queuing up to tell my pals at GR all about how much the sector needed help with culture clash, listing important-sounding strategies for ‘blending’, ‘synergising’ and ‘yoking’. That’s ‘moving people around a bit’ to you and me.

But as one M&A veteran, XL’s Nigel Bamber, revealed, simply chucking everybody into one building, putting them face to face, did the trick. Probably saved a whole lot of money paying the ‘experts’ too … GR