Caught between a Rocco and a carved slate plate

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The Independent Online
There is a lot riding on Sir Rocco Forte's pledge to soldier on sans empire. Not least the continued prosperity of a group of talented stonemasons in Cambridgeshire. Forte had commissioned The Cambridge Workshop to craft 21 stone nameplates for its Exclusive Hotel chain - just before Granada unleashed its pounds 3.9bn hostile bid for the somnambulant group.

No expense was to be spared on the circular plates, which were to be flown to the group's hotels around the world. Forte's design people decreed that each disc should be hewn from Welsh slate, with Forte's crown logo lovingly engraved using the latest computer technology. Finally, a legend reading "Exclusive Hotels by Forte'' was to be carved into the stone by hand and each letter filled in with gold paint.

And therein lies the problem. The message does not read "Exclusive Hotels by Granada''. Indeed, unless the dethroned knight buys back the Exclusive chain there appear to be few corporate manoeuvres that can justify the pounds 500-a-piece nameplates. Even if Sir Rocco does buy the hotels, the plates may need to be altered to read "Exclusive Hotels by R. Forte''.

"We were commissioned to do 21 and so far have completed 11,'' says an exasperated Harry Gray, partner with The Cambridge Workshop. "We have been paid for half the contract but now our funds have been frozen.''

Time to go back to the drawing board.

Still, Sir Rocco will have plenty of time to mull over his strategy. American Express tells me that he will not be called on to make a further contribution to the credit card company's advertising campaign. "We have no plans to use Forte in the next quarter,'' assures a spokeswoman. Talk about kicking a man when he's down.

After 35 years Anglia, the publication that promoted the British way of life to the Russians in their own language, is about to die an ignominious death at the hands of Foreign Office cuts. Mandarins claim that the rag - which has often been used as a promotional tool for British business - is no longer relevant in a modern Russian economy dominated by a vodka- swilling mafia. Besides, British business couldn't give a double-headed rouble whether it survived or perished, one mandarin told me (in more diplomatic language, of course).

"When it was established it was difficult to get anything open or unbiased into the Soviet press,'' said a Foreign Office man. "Now there is a proliferation of news.'' But, he admitted, the pressing reason for the paper's closure was the budget review demanded by HM Treasury.

Heated debate north of the border over just who has run the worst-performing Tessa (the tax-exempt special savings schemes that have just matured).

Industry statistics show the honour to rest with Royal Bank of Scotland. However, a reader assures us that the mantle truly to belongs to Bank of Scotland, which has so far avoided ridicule by not publishing its performance figures. Either way, the big Scottish banks did not appear to get the hang of this Tessa business. Clydesdale also produced a bit of a dog.

The final European intervarsity debate at King's College London - that this house believes Europe is all mouth and no trousers - ended in a humiliating defeat for the island race. Not only was the motion defeated but the prize categories had to be altered after a scintillating piece of oratory from a Dutchman. The judges, including Lord Archer (above), were forced to rethink the somewhat condescending prize of "best Continental speaker'' after the indubitably Continental Michael Boots of Leiden University walked off with the prize for best speaker. The hastily renamed prize for "best non-Continental speaker'' went to Matt Guy of Oxford University.