Column Eight: Sugar cleans up queries

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The Independent Online
A SHAREHOLDER rises at Amstrad's extraordinary meeting yesterday. 'What are you doing about TQM?' he asks. 'What's TQM?' inquires Alan Sugar. 'Total quality management,' comes the reply. Mr Sugar: 'Oh, I thought for a minute it was a new brand of disinfectant . . .'

Then again, this is the public company chairman who once admitted he thought p/e ratios were to do with press-ups.

POOR OLD Cornhill. The insurance giant has been ordered by the High Court to pay a claim from Imperial Tobacco. In November last year, pounds 2m worth of the noxious weed was rendered useless at Imperial's Nottingham factory when a worker's ear muffs fell into the machinery. Apparently, the employee left them on the machine while he went off on a tea break. And to have a quick fag presumably . . .

JAMES CAPEL's London office was near deserted yesterday as brokers and analysts decamped to Edinburgh for their annual Christmas party. Every year the Edinburgh office hosts the thrash at the adjacent Sheraton hotel. Of course it is an entirely valid business event, an opportunity for the London-based boys and girls to see important Scottish clients, etc. But who would bet against a few sore heads this morning at Capel?

THE RETAIL recession has reached Japan, judging by the news that Seibu, the department store chain, is closing its offices in London and New York and scaling down its operations in Paris and Milan.

These offices were responsible for importing luxury goods, but cuts in overtime and bonuses mean that Japanese workers have stopped buying. That should send a shiver down the spines of malt whisky distillers and posh raincoat manufacturers.