Archive for April, 2006

David Milliband ‘Smoking Gun’ for No 10?

April 17, 2006


Newspaper reports over Easter drawing David Milliband, Minister of State for Communities and Local Government, and former private secretary to Tony Blair,  into the ‘loans for peers’ scandal has raised Whitehall gossip of a No 10 ‘smoking gun’ There are also reports that the police, who have already arrested a former Government adviser in connection with the scandal want to interview a number of other people, including the Prime Minister.

The loans came to light after the committee responsible for vetting the nominees queried three of those recommended by Labour. Dr. Chai Patel, head of a chain of psychiatric clinics which has contracts with the state-run National Health Service, gave Labour a loan of £1.5 million, but he was blocked by the committee. Stockbroker Barry Townsley and Sir David Garrard, a property developer, subsequently requested their names be removed from the peers’ list, amidst complaints that the status and prestige of the titles they were promised has been undermined by Blair’s readiness to grant so many of them.

It emerged later that at least two other wealthy businessmen, Andrew Rosenfeld and Gulam Noon, the curry tycoon,  had also lent Labour money before being nominated for peerages.

Thanks for reading Big Business

David Davis


Nice guy Charles Dunstone on a BT mission

April 11, 2006


Carphone Warehouse has an odd name for a company that doesn’t sell car phones and isn’t a warehouse.  It is Europe’s biggest mobile phone retailer whose founder Charles Dunestone is on a mission to become the telecoms alternative to BT.

Today Dunstone took the challenge direct to the heart of BT by announcing free broadband access forever for customers of his Talk Talk service.  It is a move that will undoubtedly change the landscape for all other broadband providers such as NTL and AOL.

Dunstone is the minnow in the pack but few will bet against his succeeding given the way he has built the company from scratch into a £2 billion business with 1,400 stores in 10 countries.

Not bad for a 42 year old who gave up the opportunity of going to Liverpool University in favour of going to work, first at a computer computer in Cambridge and then for NEC, the Japanese telecoms giant where he spotted the opportunity for selling mobile telephones.

He started by selling them by advertising in magazines and then he opened his first shop.  The network grew rapidly as he hired people from Tesco and Waitrose to introduce a new type of marketing techniques for mobile phones.

As BT has been gradually forced to loosen its hold on telephone landlines, Dunstone was quick off the mark to step in with his Talk Talk service.  The free broadband service is the latest stage in this strategy.  It is aimed directly at home computer users which are predicted to grow to around 20 million inBritain within the next few years.

Dunstone is not the typical entrepreneur and outside of business keeps a low profile.  Few will argue that his ‘nice guy’ reputation is not justified.  He enjoys public speaking, is closely involved in the work of The Prince’s Trust and is yachting mad.

Thanks for reading Big Business

David Davis


Ayling takes £120,000 job at Sanctuary

April 5, 2006


Bob Ayling, the former chief executive of British Airways, has taken centre stage as the £120,000-a-year chairman of troubled music group Sanctuary.

He has brought with him fellow Holidaybreak director James Wallace, who joins the group as senior independent non-executive director and chairman of the audit committee.

His arrival at the company, whose artists include Beyonce and Iron Maiden, follows a £110m rescue refinancing.

He has brought with him fellow Holidaybreak director James Wallace, who joins the group as senior independent non-executive director and chairman of the audit committee.

His arrival at the company, whose artists include Beyonce and Iron Maiden, follows a £110m rescue refinancing.

Thanks for reading Big Business

David Davis

The Amersham Man retires

April 5, 2006


Sir William Castell,  one of the most high-profile members of Britain's biotechnology sector who masterminded the sale of Amersham to General Electric of the US, is retiring this week.

Sir William, who is 58, became head of GE Healthcare when he sold Amersham to the US giant in 2004. He will retain a seat on GE's board and also become chairman of the Wellcome Trust, the high-profile medical charity.

Amersham, named after the Buckinghamshire town where it was based, was Margaret Thatcher's first privatisation in 1982, when it was spun out from the Atomic Energy Authority. Amersham was valued at £71m at its flotation price.

Sir William joined the company in 1989 and steered it through a number of transformational deals, ending in a sale for almost £6bn to GE.

Thanks for reading Big Business

David Davis

Rose thanks M&S staff with £65m bonus

April 2, 2006


In 1972 a young lad from Yorkshire who went to a Quaker boarding school joined the Marks & Spencer management training scheme. Stuart Rose stayed for 17 years and had risen to head of M&S’s European division in Paris when he moved on to build a reputation as a shrewd operator who could tur around struggling retail companies.

In 2004 Rose was called back to M&S, this time as Chief Executive;  a £9 billion takeover bid on the table for the once mighty king of the High Street which had lost its way with falling sales, a diminishing share price and vanishing customer appeal

The rest is already history. The takeover was thwarted, stores were revamped, fashion modernized, and marketing was given a fresh zest with window displays and advertising campaigns designed to lure younger customers. More importantly Rose brought back M&S’s old values of quality and service.

In the near future Rose will be reporting increased sales and profits to happy-again shareholders and he will also be saying  ‘thank you’ with a £65 million bonus to the 63,000 M&S staff who have made it all work.

Now we know what ‘a shrewd operator’ really means.

Thanks for reading Big Business

David Davis

Who’s gambling on The Sportsman?

April 1, 2006

 deedes3.jpg200px-Maxwell_Francis_Aitken.jpgben goldsmith.jpgzac goldsmith.jpg

L/R Jeremy Deedes, Max Aitken, Ben & Zac Goldsmith

An amusing £2 million television advertising campaign for The Sportsman, is attracting more attention than Britain’s latest daily newspaper it is advertising.  The ads show a bookmaker refusing to allow a customer to place a bet because he is carrying a copy of The Sportsman.

But this will not be too much of a concern for the group of investors in Sports Betting Media Ltd, who are gambling £11.5 million on the paper's launch because they expect to make a killing not from newsstand sales but from the dramatic growth of the £40 billion a year Internet sports betting.

The investors are a motley crew and include the former Telegraph Newspapers chief executive, Jeremy Deedes, who is chairman of SBM;  Max Aitken, the 28-year-old great grandson of Lord Beaverbrook, creator of the Express newspaper group, and the Sportsman's managing director; Ben and Zac Goldsmith, sons of the late Sir James Goldsmith, the controversial financier; a syndicate led by Ben Arbib, son of the city financier Sir Martyn Arbib; James Osbourne, managing director of Aspinall’s and property tycoon Martin Myers.

When fully up and running The Sportman’s website will carry links to online bookmakers and gambling sites in return for a share of the revenues made from readers clicking through to place their bets.

The first test will be the World Cup in June which is expected to be the biggest sports betting event ever.

I know who I would put my money on.

Thanks for reading Big Business

David Davis .

Lord Sainsbury ‘forgot’ £2 million Labour loan

April 1, 2006


You’ve got to be seriously rich to make a loan of £2 million – and then forget about it.

Well that’s exactly what happened to Lord Sainsbury, the latest rich man to get caught up in the Labour Party loans scandal.

The heir to the Sainsbury supermarket fortune, Labour’s Science Minister since 1996, loaned the money to the party but has now admitted wrongly disclosing it to the senior senior civil servant in his department. In fact he had disclosed an earlier £2m gift, but not the £2m loan, which he had forgotten.

Lord Sainsbury’s memory lapse is not so surprising for a man worth anywhere up to £2 billion and according to political commentators has given the party an estimated £11 million in recent years.

In 2003 Mark Seddon, a member of Labour's National Executive Committee, told the BBC, 'In any other country I think a government minister donating such vast amounts of money and effectively buying a political party would be seen for what it is, a form of corruption of the political process.' Seddon said it was causing Labour to lose members amid criticism from the grassroots that the party was now 'in the pockets of the powerful and the rich'.

With such wealth the science minister has been able to spend vast sums in pursuit of his twin passions, science and politics.

In the 1980s the then plain David Sainsbury bankrolled the Social Democrats and was a particular admirer of the party's leader Lord Owen. However, he switched horses Labour when it moved toward the political centre following the collapse of the SDP/Liberal alliance.

He has also huge investments in the development of genetically-modified food and these financial interests have aroused controversy at a time when the government has come under attack for not banning GM crops.

Lord Sainsbury's interest in science was kindled at Cambridge University in the sixties. Although initially a history student he transferred to psychology because of a fascination with the breakthroughs then being made in the study of DNA.

He once said that if a fairy godmother were to grant him a wish it would be to become a Nobel Prize winner in plant genetics.

This passion for genetic research led him to donate £200m of Sainsbury shares to the Gatsby Charitable Foundation which funds work into genetically improving the resistance of plants to disease.

Thanks reading Big Business

David Davis