Fashion victims, look out for the clothes police

People & Business
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The Independent Online
Perhaps it's something to do with Archie Norman going off to be chairman of the Conservative Party, traditionally the party of law and order. Asda, where Mr Norman is non-executive chairman, is launching its own "clothes police".

The supermarket group has declared a clothing amnesty and is sending its police into its stores to "arrest" people who pay over the odds for fashion.

Asda operatives yesterday unveiled a life-size cardboard cut-out of George Davies, the former head of Next, wearing a "clothes police" cap and T-shirt. After leaving Next Mr Davies built up and sold his own company, The George Davies Partnership, to Asda, which now markets the George range of clothing.

Journalists and analysts were presented with ties and scarves from the George range. The writers packed their booty away while the analysts donned their ties immediately. Yet another example of City short-termism.

Mr Norman was reluctant to answer questions on the election, saying: "We don't want to get depressed. This is a story about success."

Significantly perhaps, every Asda member of staff was wearing a first- person name badge - except Mr Norman. Mentally, he's already in Smith Square.

Here's a joke doing the rounds at Goldman Sachs: There's a rumour that Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, is going to impose a national insurance surcharge on six-figure "fat cat" bonuses. Goldmans, however, is very relaxed about it. According to an insider: "It doesn't affect us. It would only hit us if it was seven figures."

Lord Forte has put his splendid pile in Ripley, Surrey, up for sale, I hear. The extensive estate includes a large stately home and two farms, although the prestigious Ryde Farm dairy attached to the estate is being closed down. The whole lot can be yours for a mere pounds 8m. You'd better hurry before a Goldmans partner snaps it up.

BPB, formerly British Plaster Board, may sound like a boring company, but the Messianic zeal of its Gallic chief executive, Jean-Pierre Cuny, more than makes up for this lacklustre image.

Yesterday Mr Cuny once again extolled the virtues of his product, which dominates the American market, while being rather less popular in the UK and on the Continent. He said he was not trying to glamourise his product, but that "at BPB we believe in God and plasterboard". Not bad for the man who once described himself as "the Billy Graham of plasterboard".

Wimbledon may resemble the Great Flood at the moment, but Ian Byatt, head of Ofwat, is not grumbling at missing the tennis. Yesterday a journalist remarked to the water supply Czar that although the weather was dismal, it should mean the end of hosepipe bans for this summer: "At least Thames Water are now off the hook."

To which Mr Byatt replied: "It's not just Thames Water. I wake up on a weekend when it's raining with a spring in my step."

Lord Rothschild is going to have even more time to decide how to spend the National Lottery money, as he is retiring as a director of St James's Place Capital, the financial group he built with Mark Weinberg.

But he's still heavily involved with the group, as he is becoming president of SJPC. He has found that chairing the committee which decides where the lottery millions should go has become a far more time-consuming and onerous task than was anticipated.

Lord Rothschild has another nine months to go on the lottery committee and Mr Weinberg says he's "enormously busy with it".

At the same time there are other boardroom changes stemming from the plan, announced several months ago, for J Rothschild Assurance Holdings (JRAH) to become a wholly-owned subsidiary of SJPC. SJPC said William Wellesley was to resign as a director, while Michael Wilson, chief executive of JRAH, would become an executive director of SJPC.

The Freight Transport Association can announce a technological triumph - it has invented time travel. That is the only explanation for a press release which has just plopped onto my desk: "Chancellor Brown's Budget; 2 July 1997; Transport Industry's Response." Either Dr Who has joined the FTA or Peter Mandelson has one hell of a leak to track down.

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