Lai See

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 April, 2012, 12:00am


Mouths agape at Sir David's tangy criticisms of Tiananmen and graft

We hear that Sir David Tang, of Shanghai Tang and China Club fame, caused a stir in Beijing recently as a guest speaker at the gala dinner of the World Retail Congress Asia Pacific 2012.

In a speech, which an observer described as somewhat emotional, Tang reminded his audience of the events of Tiananmen Square in 1989 and went on to talk about corruption being one of the biggest challenges to running a retail operation on the mainland.

A guest said the speech drew 'a mixed response'. The organisers appear to have been somewhat taken aback by Tang's frankness.

The next morning, the conference chairman apologised if any offence was taken at what was said that evening. Other than that, i2i Events Group,which organised the conference, said it was delighted with its first event in Beijing.

Vekselberg recasts spotlight on Rusal

Hong Kong-listed Russian aluminium producer Rusal just can't stay away from the headlines.

Last month, industry attention was stirred when chairman Viktor Vekselberg departed acrimoniously, saying the firm, controlled by Oleg Deripaska, was in 'deep crisis'.

Now Vekselberg has upped the ante by suing Deripaska and his company En+ Group and fellow shareholders Glencore.

SUAL Partners, jointly owned by Vekselberg and his partner Len Blavatnik, holds a 15.8 per cent stake in Rusal. It is accusing Deripaska's En+ and Glencore in the London Court of International Arbitration of breaching a 2007 shareholder agreement by proceeding with a new supply contract between Rusal and Glencore.

SUAL said Rusal had ignored its right of veto over the deal.

In the past Rusal had maintained that the sale of a portion of its aluminium through Glencore was a temporary measure.

But according to court documents, another six-year contract was approved by the board last month, though opposed by SUAL and at least one other shareholder, Michael Prokhorov.

The deal is an escalation of Vekselberg's row with Deripaska over Rusal's 25 per cent holding in Norilsk Nickel, which Veksleberg believes should be sold.

Deripaska is no stranger to the London court scene, having spent many hours over the past few years seeking unsuccessfully to avoid being sued there by former partner Michael Cherney.

This trial is due to start in two months. When Boris Berezovsky sued Roman Abramovich last year in London, Deripaska was called as a witness, though he appeared to have suffered a horrendous memory loss based on the number of times he said 'I don't remember' or 'I don't recall'.

Let's hope he recovers his memory in time for his skirmish with Cherney, since he could lose control of Rusal if the court rules in Cherney's favour.

CNN takes aim at NYT's 'rotten apple'

CNN has been having fun with The New York Times, accusing the paper of amusing itself, erroneously, with Tim Cook's compensation package.

Cook is, of course, Apple's chief executive. In an article on excessive CEO pay, the NYT asks, 'Is any CEO worth $1 million a day?' It went on to say that at Apple, the answer was an emphatic 'yes', and claimed that this was what Cook earned last year.

But as CNN gleefully pointed out, Cook did not make anything like US$1 million a day. The broadcaster said the NYT had made the same mistake as a number of other publications in assuming that Cook was able to walk away with the million Apple shares he was granted.

However, to get his hands on the shares, Cook has to stay at Apple for 10 years. Hence the headline on CNN's story on its website: 'Apple CEO's earnings: The New York Times Gets it Wrong.'

Lucky that CNN never makes a mistake.

At the cutting blades of fashion

If you think there isn't much synergy between a helicopter manufacturer and a world-class fashion designer, your instinct might be right.

In reality, however, you would be wrong. Because we see that Anglo-Italian firm AugustaWestland has formed a partnership with Karl Lagerfeld for the design of VIP helicopter interiors and exteriors.

The partnership will initially focus on the development of an exclusive AW139 medium twin-turbine helicopter VIP exterior and interior design. 'Through this co-operation, AgustaWestland introduces a new limited edition customised solution,' a company press release states.

Another potential toy for our tycoons, perhaps. But we heard recently that a helicopter has about 17,000 moving parts, so the risk of something going wrong is a good deal higher than, say, on a private aircraft.