A man catches a cold and the rumours spread

People & Business

David Webster, chairman-elect of Safeway, is the subject of all manner of wild rumours at the moment. One story circulating last week was that Mr Webster had missed the group's recent results presentations because his house had been burgled and that he and his wife had been tied up for several hours before the boys in blue came to the rescue.

Other versions of the story went further, with some saying that not only had Mr Webster been burgled but kidnapped too, hence the no-show.

Safeway was keen to set the record straight yesterday, saying there was nothing sinister behind Mr Webster's absence. "I don't know where all these things are coming from. He had a bad cold."

Also the subject of wild rumours is Jonathan Benda, young gun at Brunswick, the city PR firm. The PR world was agog with the initial story that he was leaving to become a clown. ("No change there then", said one Brunswick "friend".)

Later reports suggested he was leaving to become a magician (the Great Benda is a member of the magic circle). This seemed more likely as the transition from conjuring up stories to pulling small furry animals out of hats would appear a simple one.

Sadly, neither are true, though one thing seems clear: he is leaving. Mr Benda remained tight-lipped on the subject yesterday though he did threaten to saw me in half at one point. Sources close to the Great Malfonso say he is quitting "to set up a business". More news as it comes in.

Tom Hunter, managing director of Sports Division, got a shops assistant's view of Christmas trading at the weekend when he put in a shift at the sports retailer's Oxford Street store.

Mr Hunter, whose 240-strong chain acquired Olympus Sports from Sears earlier this year, reported for duty at the shop with his entire board on Saturday.

Finance director Brian McClusky manned the till (he was rather slow and hamfisted, by all accounts). Mr Hunter undertook a range of tasks including selling training shoes to spotty youths and cleaning up in the canteen. "It was hard work but you learn much more doing that than during a whole series of meetings," Mr Hunter said. "It's not a publicity stunt, we've been doing it since we started 12 years ago."

He said Saturday's venture had proved so successful that the directors would serve in a shop at least three times a year. Perhaps if Liam Strong had tried this then Sears would have not got in such a mess with Olympus in the first place.

London's second oldest nightclub is looking for new shareholders to fund a refurbish- ment programme that will turn it into an all-singing, all dancing cabaret club.

The Rheingold club, located in a narrow street off Oxford Street, was founded in 1959 and new chairman Christopher Ager claims only Ronnie Scott's is older.

Mr Ager, an enthusiastic theatrical producer, has been brought in by the two original German owners to manage the club and arrange a sale. He is hoping to raise pounds 350,000 for the club, which recorded a loss last year after the previous franchisee brought in transvestite cabaret acts in an unsuccessful attempt to boost trade.

Cross-dressing and lederhosen will apparently not form part of the fund- raising prospectus. "We don't want to have thigh slapping and bratwurst," Mr Ager says. He already has several local businessmen willing to invest but is hoping to generate interest from business angels who might ordinarily back West End shows.

Perween Warsi, founder of Derby-based ethnic food company S&A Foods has been named Woman Entrepreneur of the World at a presentation in London.

Ms Warsi, who was runner-up in the Veuve Clicquot businesswoman of the year award two years ago, started S&A in her kitchen in 1987. It now achieves annual sales of more than pounds 30m supplying ethic ready made dips and sauces to supermarket groups including Asda and Safeway.

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