Pembroke: A gem of a stake

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The Independent Online
Interesting that Asprey, the jeweller run by the endearingly enthusiastic Naim Attallah, has stumped up pounds 120,000 for a 76 per cent stake in posh frock designer Tomasz Starzewski. Mr Starzewski is a British (via Polish origin) thirtysomething who has gone bust twice and bounced back with a business that turned over pounds 1.5m last year.

The logic of the deal, according to Mr Attallah, is to broaden Asprey's customer base and catch customers younger, an odd view considering the young designer has clothed the not exactly mid-market Duchess of York and Shakira Caine.

It will also, he hopes, make Asprey appear trendier. 'Tomasz appeals to the young. He will add some glamour and show that we are not just traditional but as chic as anybody else,' says the wild-of-tie Mr Attallah.

Staples, the office superstore, opened its second branch yesterday - at Staples Corner, London. Pure coincidence, apparently.

On to our desk flops a whole pile of material from Girobank, the former Post Office banking subsidiary now owned by Alliance & Leicester. Unfortunately, although the information is clearly issued with the intention of showing how wonderful its telephone banking system is, it only succeeds in revealing how dim some of its customers are.

For example, on the launch of the bank's 'Bard card', a cheque guarantee card with a hologram of William Shakespeare on it, one customer called up saying that he had been sent the wrong card as he didn't have a beard. Another rang to find out how the bank had obtained a photograph of him for the card without his knowledge.

Another account holder who had not received his cheque book rang to ask if he could photocopy his wife's cheques and use them instead.

But pity the poor customer who, upon quoting an incorrect account number, was asked by the operator: 'Where are you reading the number out from?' 'Scunthorpe,' came the reply.

Ted Benfield, the feisty chairman of insurance broker Kininmonth Lambert Marine, is not a happy man. Upon reading in Lloyd's List that leading insurance company Benfield Group (no relation) is to set up a London reinsurance group to specialise in catastrophe business, the real Mr Benfield has fired off a missive to the namesake company that reads thus: 'I would like you to know how pathetic I consider your actions are in continuing to use my name.'