Buy a share in British Petroleum (now called BP) and the chairman’s thanks come with it. ‘I am pleased to welcome you,’ writes Peter Sutherland. ‘Thank you for the confidence you have demonstrated in BP through your investment.’ He sends you, not, as you might expect, a coffee-table pamphlet full of glossy pictures of tankers and drilling-rigs, but a guide to what being a shareholder means. It is a model. Newcomers will learn what a dividend is, when to expect it, and how a company which accounts in US dollars pays its dividends in sterling. Advanced students can test their knowledge of record dates and Crest. Those with some odd shares left over will be introduced to ShareGift, which can sell them and pass the proceeds to the owner’s chosen charity. I take it that BP has struck the first blow in a Campaign for Real Shareholders. Like real ale, they have been driven out by the financial equivalent of keg bitter, and corporate life is poorer and less diverse without them. Any chairman with any savvy (Mr Sutherland has plenty) would prefer them to ersatz shareholders–the stewards of other people’s money who give themselves the airs of owners and would gang up to cut his throat for an extra sixpence. My friend Sir Topham Hatt, who (as I reported last week) is hitting back at them by forming the Association of Fat Controllers, will sign up for BP’s campaign. Thanks, as he says, are a dividend, too: sometimes the only one.