Column Eight: Sales up in smoke

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The Independent Online
OOOH, it's an ill wind and no mistake . . . Simon Engineering has just won orders worth dollars 25m from fire services in the US and Korea, eager for its fire-fighting platforms. And where did these far-flung firemen spot the platforms? On the telly. Pictures beamed to millions worldwide showed them at the forefront of the Windsor Castle flames.

'Whilst everyone was extremely sad at the fire at Windsor Castle,' the company muses, 'the publicity has been a great advertisement.'

THE HOUSE of Windsor is to be treated to a total makeover today on ITV's This Morning programme. Max Clifford, King of PR, will be directing the Royal Family towards achieving a better relationship with the media. And Rodney Fitch, the design supremo, will give the Royals a few ideas on rebranding the family: how to repackage it, run it as a modern business and gain the best possible tax advantage. Very timely.

Mr Fitch is no stranger to emergency rebuilding work. After all, it wasn't so long ago that his own company, Fitch RS, needed a wee revamp. The shares were suspended in July after the banks refused it any more working capital. Happily, an equity refinancing soon set it back on track. The Royal Family may need a bit more work.

THE GOVERNMENT is still seeking a director-general for an 'Ofrail' to regulate the railways post-privatisation. An advertisement confides that knowledge of railways or public transport is 'an advantage but not essential', even though the successful candidate will have to 'deal with domestic and international operators seeking access to the GB Rail network'.

He or she will also have to ensure consumer protection for rail passengers, oversee competition in the railway industry and ensure fair access and charging for all rail licence operators.

Now it appears that 'knowledge of the railways' is not only inessential, but a positive disadvantage. At least one recent candidate was turned down with words to this effect: 'Sorry and all that - 'fraid you're from British Rail. They don't want a BR employee.'

LORD Rothschild is teaming up with one of his old school pals from Eton for his latest venture, an assault on the European life insurance market. Anthony Loehnis, formerly overseas director of the Bank of England and the retiring vice-chairman of SG Warburg, is joining the board of J Rothschild International Assurance Holdings. It has just become the first insurance company to set up in Dublin's free trade area.

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