• Sat
  • Apr 19, 2014
  • Updated: 8:48pm
Lai See
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 June, 2013, 4:35am

Simon Murray awarded Legion honour

BIO

Howard Winn has been with the South China Morning Post for two and half years after previous stints as business editor and deputy editor of The Standard, and business editor of Asia Times. His writing has also been published in the Far Eastern Economic Review, the Wall Street Journal, and the International Herald Tribune. He writes the Lai See column which focuses on the lighter side of business.
 

Businessman and adventurer Simon Murray has another battle honour to add to his collection, which includes seeing commodities trader Glencore through its float as chairman.

Murray, a former legionnaire, joined some old comrades a few weeks ago when the Foreign Legion celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Camerone, in which 60 or so legionnaires died gloriously, fighting off 3,000 Mexicans. Murray was unexpectedly ordered by a general to stand forward, and he was presented with the regimental flag at the legion's headquarters near Marseilles.

"It was a wonderful honour and quite moving," said Murray, 73, who joined a legion paratroop regiment in 1960 and served for five years in Algeria during its war of independence. "It's normally given to the head of the regiment on retiring, but never, never to below the rank of colonel," said the latter-day Beau Geste, who was once Li Ka-shing's right-hand man. "Quite nice for an ex-corporal to have that thrust on upon him."

The flag now adorns his Norman Foster-designed offices in London.

 

AIA caught out again

Readers may recall that we have reported on the promotional vehicles which insurance companies, banks and telecommunications firms like to park in busy areas and recruit customers. These companies hire the vehicle, then park it illegally at the roadside. This works as a cheap roadside showroom, since there is no need to pay the huge rents involved in renting a shop, and they only have to pay the occasional parking fine (if the police or traffic warden can be persuaded to book them).

One of our readers recently told us that a van covered with the insignia of the listed insurance company AIA was parked outside the Southorn Centre on Hennessy Road, next to the Wan Chai MTR station, with its engine running. When the driver saw he was being observed, he drove off. After we contacted AIA, it responded with an "internal enquiry" which concluded that, the vehicle was "a means of transportation for our financial planners to reach out to the community" in order to provide information on career development in the industry as well as information on insurance.

AIA says it had a separate generator and, to comply with the environmental regulations, the vehicle's engine was only used for three-minute intervals to charge it. "At AIA, showing care for our community which we serve has always been one of our corporate values. Internal guidelines have been in place to ensure that our promotional initiative do not cause or create inconvenience for the public."

While AIA would have us believe it was only providing a public service, this is, to put it politely, complete codswallop. Not only was the engine running and breaking idling regulations, it was illegally parked. Police told Lai See it was illegal for vehicles to park in that area. This is not a new situation for AIA, since we raised an identical case with it a year ago. AIA trotted out a similarly statement saying: "As a responsible organisation, we have guidelines in place to ensure that our vehicles do not cause pollution by idling and/or create inconvenience for the public." Fine-sounding words, but a year later AIA is still parking illegally in the same spot, with an idling engine, and still trying to pretend it is a socially responsible company. It should stop this illegal activity.

 

Elsie stays on board

Elsie Leung Oi-sie, a former secretary for justice, survived an attempt to vote her off the board of Hong Kong-listed Rusal, the Russian aluminium company. But she faced stiff opposition, with 34 per cent of shareholders voting against her, while 64 per cent voted in her support. Sual Partners, which owns 15.8 per cent of Rusal, sought to eject Leung, who is an independent non-executive director, at the AGM at the end of last week. A motion expressing confidence in Leung was passed by 79 per cent, while 20 per cent voted against. This confidence was further reflected in the decision to make her chairman of the remuneration committee, in addition to her seat on the audit committee. There was also significant opposition to the proposals granting the board permission to buy back Rusal shares and to grant new shares. Rusal's share price fell 2.6 per cent yesterday to HK$3.35, some way off its January 2010 listing price of HK$10.80.

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