Joint ventures with foreign partners can be risky business so one British company has decided to call on the top brass to help it out.

In his attempts to forge a new shipping dynasty, Andreas Ugland has turned a tiny, lame ship repairer into an integrated shipping company with ship management, docks and a mixture of vessels.

Ugland, who recently sold the eponymous company's splendid castellated headquarters in Surrey, has now struck a co-operation deal with the American shippers Totem Resources.

To manage the venture they have employed the former head of the US Coast Guard.

Admiral J. William Kime, 60, is the baseball-mad naval architect who first made his name designing ice-breakers and was then appointed by President Bush to command the Coastguard.

Newshounds will remember him as the luckless official who was responsible for sending back home thousands of desperate Haitian refugees. Ugland must hope that he will police the company's global fleet with the same determination.

At a time of stagnant property prices and gloom among estate agents, why on earth would Ernst & Young take over Kenneth Leventhal & Company, the American real estate advisers?

"People always need help, even when they are getting rid of of property," said Nick Land, the recently appointed managing partner.

Bernard Hine, the diminutive owner of the Hine cognac business in south- western France, was giving a characteristically sage-like performance at the Athenaeum Hotel when a collection of City bankers met to discuss brandy and cigars.

He proved unsurprised that the bankers were dominated by a hedonistic group from New York's Chase Manhattan.

"The British are traditionally the largest consumers of our cognac but were recently taken over by the Americans," he said.

A group of hard-working professionals who dream of becoming movie stars have thrown caution to the wind and, over the Easter holidays, shot a film written by one of their advertising chums. 14 Years On is a short film written and directed by William Sankey, an advertising director at BMP DDB Needham, and Marcus Buckland, a radio presenter.

The pair are old Harrovians and went back to the Hill to shoot the film. A spoof, it concerns four old boys who re-visit the school and are haunted by memories of the beatings and bullying they both suffered and delivered. It stars Dr Who girl Sophie Aldred and House of Cards actor Will Scott- Masson. Starring amongst these thespian luminaries was Roger Utley, the former England rugby captain and coach who now coaches the Harrow school team. He implausibly played a vicar. "Finding a collar that would reach around his vast neck proved one of the hardest tasks," recalls Mr Sankey, who is looking for £20,000 to process the films.

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