Column Eight: Brummie brasserie on menu

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The Independent Online
BIRMINGHAM's bid to shed its tag as a cultural wasteland may be about to get a shot in the arm. Richard Shepherd, joint owner with Michael Caine of Langan's Brasserie in London, has been touring the provinces for a site on which to spend pounds 1m on a new eaterie. It seems Britain's unfashionable second city is top of his menu, though whether it will attract the celebrity clientele that made his Piccadilly brasserie so famous is doubtful. But Mr Shepherd is ever hopeful. 'Birmingham is a changed city; it really is,' he says.

SAD NEWS for Charles Barker, which bought itself out of receivership last week. Despite inventing the concept of public relations some 161 years ago, it cannot join the industry's trade body, the Public Relations Consultants Association.

The reason is the Charles Barker buyout does not have the requisite three years' trading record. Which is particularly embarrassing for Angela Heylin, managing director, who has just stood down as chairman of the PRCA.

THE EXTRA-CURRICULAR activities of main board directors often enhance the standing of their companies. Not so with the Swiss chocolate maker Lindt & Spruengli. The shares fell 9 per cent yesterday following newspaper reports that Rudolph Spruengli, the chairman, had secretly married a woman with ties to an obscure US sect. 'The news triggered selling because it added to doubts about the management of Lindt & Spruengli already in the market,' said a jittery Werner Stich, a Swiss Bank Corp broker.

IN A DISPLAY of the openness that has won Harland Simon so many friends in recent months, its chairman, David Mahony, barred the Independent from attending the troubled company's annual meeting of shareholders yesterday.

Could it have been the bad press lately? Who knows? Anyway, despite a healthy attendance at the 10am meeting, it was apparently a quiet affair with few questions.

Shareholders in the control systems firm re-elected Mr Mahony as a director, allowing him to continue the cracking job he has been doing. Harland expects to make another loss this year.

PERCHED on the skyscraping top floor of Baring Brothers' Bishopsgate headquarters, Clay Brendish, chairman of Admiral, the software consultancy, searched for an example to illustrate the utility of his company's computer program for training managers to deal with emergencies.

Looking out the window at the spectaular views of the City, his eyes alighted on the adjacent Lloyd's building. 'This system would be very useful if, say, a 747 crashed into Lloyd's,' he said. That was one solution we hadn't thought of.

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