Column Eight: Lighter side of Sainsbury

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The Independent Online
DAVID Sainsbury gave away pounds 200m of shares in the family supermarkets business yesterday. Having bankrolled the SDP in the 1980s, Britain's richest man is now boosting the coffers of his Gatsby Charitable Foundation, which donates millions to education, science and healthcare.

Since taking on the Sainsbury chairmanship in November, the donnish Mr Sainsbury has rather disconcerted his managers by descending on stores in an American-built Chevy van - what he calls his 'office on wheels'.

A cross between a Ford Transit and a luxury camper van, it is chunky, turquoise, and has more lights than a Christmas tree - and that's just on the inside. Incognito store visits are a thing of the past, I fear.

INCIDENTALLY, Mr Sainsbury, born in 1940, the Year of the Dragon, is likely to put in costlier car insurance claims than the average, according to the findings of a curious missive from The Insurance Service, a car insurance firm.

Analysis of claims over five years revealed significant differences according to the claimants' Chinese star sign. Pigs, dragons and horses put in the highest claims; rabbits and rats the lowest.

Alas, having gone to the trouble of discovering this unlikely correlation, TIS then totally ignores it when calculating premiums. Seems no pottier than using occupations or postcodes.

GRAND Metropolitan has asked shareholders to put questions in writing ahead of next month's annual meeting. Someone at the drinks group apparently believes Sir Allen Sheppard, paid pounds 771,000 last year, needs advance warning of hostile questions.

One question I'm assured he will be asked is whether Sir Colin Marshall should remain a non-executive director in the wake of allegations about his role in the British Airways dirty tricks scandal.

THE FOREIGN Office was rather stymied when a British businessman rang for advice last week, after winning a big contract in Kuwait.

Drawing on centuries of wisdom and experience running the British empire, an official advised him: 1. Don't go near the Iraqi border. 2. Don't sunbathe on mined beaches. 3. Contact the British consulate when you get there.

Oh, and 4. Don't, for heaven's sake, go north of the Murat Ridge.

'Where is the Murat Ridge?' asked our intrepid entrepreneur.

'Er, I've no idea,' replied the mandarin.

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