Bunhill: Owen rumoured for Lonrho

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The Independent Online
THE departure of Paul Spicer from Lonrho - he's one of the four pensioned directors who have volunteered to quit in return for two years' pay - marks the end of a quarter-century war of attrition.

He was hired from Shell by Tiny Rowland to keep Lonrho out of the papers. This he signally failed to do, as Rowland embarked on the celebrated fight with his non-executive directors in 1973, following that with the unsuccessful bid to take over House of Fraser, and the spectacular feud with the Fayed brothers.

Throughout these sagas, Spicer maintained a straight face and an even straighter bat, worthy of the Kremlin at its most Stalinesque. Fiercely loyal to Rowland, he would stand up when talking to him on the phone.

Three years ago, Spicer was throwing cold water on suggestions that the former SDP leader Lord Owen might become chairman of Lonrho.

'It's a complex company,' he explained, 'and if we were to hoist someone in from outside . . . it would have to be someone who understood the business.'

Ironically, the Owen-for-chairman rumour has recently resurfaced, now that the job is vacant again and with Owen expected to give up his role as a peace envoy in the Balkans. The salary is north of pounds 200,000.