CITY DIARY

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The Independent Online
A security guard or two is not something the Express newspapers have lacked in the past. In fact, they had a total of 27. But as part of the current round of job cuts, someone has seen fit to fire 17. It seems the overmanning problem led to a gaggle of guards gathering in the foyer to check passes while perfecting the look of nightclub bouncers, according to one source. Now employees will have put up with a turnstile system instead.

However, it could just be that Lord Stevens, chairman of United Newspapers, has decided he does not need the help of all 27 to defend his very desirable parking slot right outside the papers' Blackfriars office.

There's nothing like a spot of DIY to keep itchy fingers occupied. Stuart Stradling, another casualty from SBC Warburg, where he was director and chairman of corporate broking activities, obviously thinks a spell at the fitted kitchen and bathroom specialist Wickes is right up his street.

Mr Stradling has joined the board and will be appointed group finance director at the start of August.

He arrived at Warburg via a partnership in Rowe & Pitman, which merged with Warburg but has advised Wickes since 1986.

Entrepreneurial Charlie Blackwell, the great great grandson of the founder of soup giant Cross & Blackwell, is on to a winner with his pot-filling enterprise.

When merchant banking at Hambros failed to keep his interest, he snapped up Rapitex IPRC - an instant pothole repair compound to those in the know - and now markets the sandwich spread-like filler to friends, neighbours and anyone in need of an infill for pounds 12.80 a pot.

The secret of its success, according to Mr Blackwell, is all in the marketing. "It seemed like such a obvious product," he says. It seems he has succeeded, as those with holes as far afield as South Africa and Ireland have made inquiries about the pot filler's potential.

Mr Blackwell says there is now room for another venture to capitalise on the marketing and distribution operation now in place.

But if all else fails, he can always rely on the Lap of Luxury to keep the money rolling in. Although he is winding down his racehorse-breeding operation, the six-year-old grey has already clocked up pounds 100,000 and came in an unexpected winner last week at Sandown.

Japanese corporations trawling the country looking for a British bargain to make widgets for their gadgets are a common sight these days. So it comes as no surprise that the prominent Japanese tycoon Tadao Aoi has stumped up pounds 3m for Cambridge University to build an East Asian wing, to be known as the Aoi Pavillio, in the university library.

Aoi was once named by Time magazine as among the top 150 rising world leaders, and as chairman of Marui, a chain of department stores, is famous for his merchandising success. The donation means scholars will now have access to the university's vast collection of Japanese material. Lots more space to study what the Japanese will buy next.

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