Alan Sugar's pride and joy sails into the City

City Diary

The luxury yacht Louisiana on which owner Alan Sugar signed Jurgen Klinsmann for Tottenham Hotspur two years ago is currently catching the eye of City lunchers. The 160ft ocean-going yacht is moored right alongside a string of Terence Conran restaurants at London's Butler's Wharf, next to Tower Bridge, and within easy staggering distance of most City parlours.

Rumours were circulating among diners yesterday that the Amstrad boss had put the beautiful boat up for sale with an pounds 8m-pounds 10m price tag. This was firmly denied by Mr Sugar's spokesman yesterday. "He's very fond of her - she's his only relaxation, the only toy he's got. She's just stopping over from Germany on the way back to the Med. You can charter her though, for $107,000 a week."

The boat is nicknamed "Venables' Gift" because, so the story goes, Mr Sugar was able to buy it in 1993 with the money he put aside to buy out Terry Venables, an offer Venables rejected, thus saving Mr Sugar millions.

Up to 12 guests can enjoy the Louisiana's own disco floor, hot-air balloon, helipad, facilities for clay pigeon shooting, a cinema, and a platform allowing bathers easy access to the sea. This week Mr Sugar is using it himself for something more prosaic - business meetings.

The American company Utilicorp is in the process of buying out the other partners in its British subsidiary, one of which is Norland Gas Marketing. This UK company was founded by, among others, former British Coal boss Sir Ian MacGregor, Roger Turner and Peter Bryant.

Mr Bryant is leaving Norland in order to concentrate on a new business venture - setting up a small "solid wood furnishings" business in Huddersfield, housed in an 11 thousand square foot mill.

It was a day of crushed hopes for Sydney Casino down under recently, when media tycoon Kerry Packer, one of the world's biggest gamblers, walked in. According to the Australasian paper for expats, Southern Cross, he left just an hour later - without placing a single bet. In fact he didn't spend any money at all. Since the mogul is known for having dropped over pounds 1m in one go at the tables, Casino staff hurried to shut down two $200 minimum-bet tables and replaced them with $1m in chips for Mr Packer's use.

To no avail. According to Southern Cross, a casino spokesman admitted: "It was something of an anti-climax."

Fancy looking after other people's pets - and getting paid for it? A company founded in Bristol four years ago called Pets Nanny wants to expand, and is seeking to recruit suitable people to run a pet care service.

This means providing "a dedicated home care and live-in service for all pet owners." Sarah Cromer, director, adds that the company has a set of stringent criteria for taking people on, since the company survives on its reputation.

Initially, Pets Nanny is proposing a licensed agreement leading to a full franchise package. I wonder if they operate a variable rate depending on the difficulty of looking after the pet. After all, feeding a goldfish would be easier than, say, walking the Llama.

Good news for the Liberal Democrats. Last week they were hopping mad that the Railtrack flotation prospectus, to be published this Monday, was to contain a warning from the Labour Party on its plans to retake control of the network if it got into power. Understandably, the Lib Dems wanted their own proposals for reasserting control over the country's rail network and duly demanded that SBC Warburg include their own blurb in the prospectus. Happily the bankers complied. But hang on. The Lib Dems' plans get under one page, while Labour gets three. Must be proportional representation.

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