BUNHILL : Yorkshire's battle of the big cheeses

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The Independent Online
Things are getting pretty smelly in North Yorkshire, t' Bunhill reports. Cheese wars have broken out and the cattle of the Dales are being lined up for action.

To explain. Two companies make Wensleydale cheese. One, Wensleydale Dairy Products, is based in the eponymous dale at Hawes. Four years ago its owner Dairy Crest wanted to close it down, but a management team swooped in to take over. Since then it has been doing great things and earlier this year received the endorsement of those well-known artistes, Wallace and Gromit.

The other maker is Fountains Dairy at Kirkby Malzeard, near Ripon: not quite in the dale, but founded by the man credited with inventing the recipe, Kit Calvert.

Though there was previously low-level sniping between the two, battle has now commenced. This summer WDP signed a deal with dale farmers to collect much of its milk directly from them. This, it said, would mean its Wensleydale was the only genuine one. By jove, said the people at Fountains, that's a bit rich (I translate into southern English for your convenience). So they set up an agreement to collect all their milk from Wensleydale farms.

I won't go into the details, but the battle has since escalated. "More Wensleydale than thou!" is the cry heard from both Hawes and Kirkby Malzeard. t'Bunhill has a preference, but being a fair man I will not reveal it. "They both have very good taste," he says. "Most people couldn't tell the difference."

YOU MAY not have heard of Cornelia Anna Pianim. She's two and is a rather special little girl: one grandfather, you see, is Rupert Murdoch. The other is the would-be president of Ghana.

I discovered this rather unlikely link between our Rupert and African politics when I met Elkin Pianim, the young mistress's dad. He is 26, looks like a young Mohammed Ali, and had the good sense to marry Elisabeth Murdoch. He is also backer of New Nation, a newspaper aimed at black people, that you may have seen elegantly detailed in last week's Independent on Sunday.

Pianim's story is extraordinary. His mum is Dutch. His dad, Andrews Kwame Pianim, was head of the Cocoa Marketing Board in the late 1970s and was one of the few holders of the post not to be charged with corruption. Trouble was, he was charged with high treason instead - Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings took charge and locked him up for 10 years. The family's assets were frozen and Elkin spent much of his youth under surveillance. "Sometimes I would pick up the phone and say hello to the guy tapping it," he reminisces.

When he was 19, Elkin went on a scholarship to Vassar, the Ivy League College in New York. He studied Marxist economics and read Workers Tribune. That did not stop him coming to the notice of the woman running campus television, Ms Murdoch. "Her story is she was making a film and I walked into her viewfinder. I say we were in a bar and she picked me up."

He was not overawed by her background. "I didn't know who the hell she was. In West Africa, Rupert Murdoch is irrelevant." (Paradise!)

They got married, he got a job on Wall Street, she got a job in Los Angeles. Then they asked her dad to guarantee a $35m loan so they could buy a couple of television stations in California. A year later they sold them for $46m, which means they had $11 million of their own. She came to London to run BSkyB, he looked around for something to do and after pulling out of negotiations to buy The Voice, decided to back the New Nation.

And that's the story. Elkin is engagingly unengaged in his surroundings. "I don't really feel Ghanaian or American," he says. "As long there's a working phone system and decent weather I'm fine." He also seems unaffected by being Murdoch's son-in-law, even though he would not be a multimillionaire were he not.

We will surely hear more of him. Despite the lack of fine weather he and Elisabeth will stay in London for a while: he wants to build a group of publications aimed at the black market. As for Cornelia Anna, she is being looked after by the same Yorkshire nanny who brought up her mum. Wouldn't it be nice if one of her grandfathers became president of Ghana? I don't really care which.

Crisis management

I have some brilliant suggestions for management textbook titles. Here are a couple to tease you. Same concept, different begetters. From Neil Hudson of Norwich: "Zero-sizing: Management without workforce". From Paul McGhee of south London: "Profit without people: Beyond downsizing." Keep them coming - more next week (if I'm still here).

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