Friday 19 January 2018

The Punt: So when is Brown off?

Jim Brown
Jim Brown

Speculation about just when Jim Brown will leave Ulster Bank is likely to intensify after the head of the bank's UK parent, Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), said he's confident its Williams & Glyn business will be spun-off before the end of 2016.

Given that the current Ulster Bank boss is being tapped to lead that spin-off, it's hard to see the Kiwi being left in Dublin too much longer.

Comments yesterday from RBS chief executive Ross McEwan certainly suggest he wants a hand on the William & Glyn tiller sooner rather than later.

"This has been one of the most difficult projects of banking in the UK at the moment but we've got 4,000-plus staff engaged in taking this business out. We're still confident we will have it ready for IPO late next year," McEwan said.

Ironically enough, under Jim Brown, inset, Ulster Bank was retained within RBS all through a period of huge uncertainty, when various plans to exit some or all of the Irish unit were kicked around in London, Edinburgh and Dublin.

That all came to nought, and with its return to profit the plan now is to hold on to Ulster and make a return out of a business that gobbled up an awful lot of British taxpayers' money.

But Brown still gets to extract a bank from RBS.

Because he's worth it

Are they fully valuing your contribution down at the office?

Wall Street bigwig Bennett Goodman probably hasn't had to worry about being underpaid for a while, but if he had wondered, his bosses at Blackstone have given him an answer: $200m (€176m).

Mr Goodman is an executive and founder at GSO Capital Partners. The firm, which has its European HQ in Dublin, was taken over by Blackstone back in 2008. It makes its money by providing non-bank financing to business. In Ireland, it has been heavily involved in Eircom in recent years, and employs around 110 people here.

Bloomberg News reports that Blackstone granted Goodman more than five million restricted shares during the first quarter when he was added to the board. In return, the 58-year-old will stick with the New York-based firm for another eight years.

Goodman is the "G" in GSO. The payout comes weeks after it emerged that Doug Ostrover - the "O" in GSO - was leaving the firm.

It may be why Goodman has been clapped into those 28-carat handcuffs.

Persistence pays off

Well done Gavin Sheridan. The journalist/innovator/transparency campaigner secured an important win over Nama at the Supreme Court yesterday, with a ruling that does us all a service.

In a nutshell a legal appeal by Nama based on its claim that it is not a public authority - and therefore not subject to European freedom of environmental information requests - was dismissed.

Remarkably its been a five-year process, since way back in 2010 when Sheridan spotted that Nama's status as a State agency meant the freedom of environmental information rules should have meant a potential "in" to the bad bank's secrets. Nama initially rejected that assertion but in 2011 the then Information Commissioner, Emily O'Reilly, found for Sheridan.

Better again, after a legal challenge from Nama, her office rolled up its sleeves to defend that determination all the way through the High Court to the Supreme Court.

Yesterday's decision is clear cut, and since the original case was taken Nama has also been made subject to Irish Freedom of Information laws. Sheridan has form as a campaigner - he also fought hard for the release of the so-called Trichet letters.

Irish Independent

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