Taking Stock – Sir John’s shot in the dark.

Sir John Harvey Jones has always been seen as something of a loveable maverick – that’s what’s endeared him to both businessmen and television commissioning editors over the years. So it was no surprise to find him in good form aboard the good ship Arcadia last week, where he spent three days mingling with the cream of British business – and TS – at the Finance Director’s forum. Sir John set the tone of his visit in advance with a note in the handbook to the conference, which sees more than 300 FDs gather in the middle of the English Channel each June. ‘I’ve seen more financial directors in action than most,’ said the former ICI chairman and TV’s troubleshooter. ‘As a collection of rare and largely untamed beasts I look forward to discussing with you the best way in which the future could unfold.’ But after a generous dinner on the first night, Sir John was more succinct. ‘I see a great future for finance directors,’ he told his well-fed audience. ‘It can’t be any worse than your past.’ Too chummy by half, thought TS. That’s the problem with conferences – you never get a presenter willing to ruffle his audience’s feathers. Needless to say, Sir John got away with it. Until the last night that is, when his closing address was greeted with a loud bang from within the audience. It seemed that one of the celebratory balloons lining the walls had burst. But Sir John saw it differently. ‘You know you’re in trouble when they start firing at you,’ he said.

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