Pembroke: CIS prime minister sets sail on a sea of roubles

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The Independent Online
More evidence that hard currency is thick on the ground in some quarters of the former Soviet Union.

I hear that Fairline Boats, purveyors of luxury yachts and motor cruisers, has sold one of its top-of- the-range vessels to the prime minister of one of the fledgling Commonwealth of Independent States.

But glasnost only stretches so far. Fairline chairman Sam Newington is bound by a confidentiality agreement from revealing the identity of the seafaring comrade with a penchant for capitalist luxury. Sadly, he cannot tell us the number of roubles that changed hands either. But he did sound pleased on the phone.

Sir John Hall, property developer, Newcastle United's chairman and all-round Captain Geordieland, didn't know whether he was coming or going yesterday.

He had just finished celebrating the Samsung decision to build a new plant on his land in Northumberland (the Koreans paid 14 visits in six months just to be sure).

Then it was over to St James's Park, where he was entertaining the directors of Athletic Bilbao for lunch and dinner before last night's UEFA cup match.

When we spoke, he was in a spin about the wine. 'Someone's bought the wrong one,' he said. 'I'm going to have to send out for some more.'

Still on Sir John. Such has been his commitment to the glory march of Newcastle United, the fast-talking knight has been neglecting his garden. At Wynyard, the former home of the Earl of Londonderry, Sir John had hoped to restore a 50-acre Victorian garden as his legacy to the North-east. But in the past two years, his hoe has scarcely left the shed. 'There are still a lot of weeds at Wynyard, but not many at Newcastle United,' he beams.

Michael Davey, whose Croxtons consultancy specialises in 'National Insurance mitigation' plans, is at it again. Just months after launching his 'Gee Gee' scheme, where company bonuses and dividends are paid in racehorses rather than cash, he is trumpeting his new wheeze: Oriental carpets.

It works like this. The company buys a Persian rug and puts it in bond. Then the employee receiving the bonus has the option of taking delivery or selling it. 'We had to turn down a pounds 900,000 order because we couldn't get the carpets but we've done several deals since,' he says.

A malt in one hand and a haggis in the other, Charles Craig was looking relieved yesterday. The occasion was the launch of The Scotch Whisky Industry Record, a brick-heavy tome he has penned to co-incide with 500 years of distilling in Scotland.

Mr Craig, a former whisky blender who later became chairman of Invergordon Distillers, spent three years researching the work and is looking forward to a break. Asked what he would do now, he said: 'Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Please excuse me, I think I'll get another drink.'

It seems that Nigel Legge, who this week joins River & Mercantile as head of a new investment group, is a former luvvie. He was once understudy for Jason Robards in a movie called Tempus, which was filmed in Rome. Sadly, he didn't get to grace the screen.