Pembroke: Creditors send in the bunnies

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COMPANIES suffering from late payment of debts have probably fantasised often about doing unspeakable things to tardy payers. An entrepreneur in Germany has just the thing: Burckhard Hell, a former waiter, has set up an agency that puts pink rabbits on the case.

According to a French news magazine, Nouvel Observateur, the agency sends someone dressed in a pink velour rabbit costume and Ray-Bans to trail the target debtor. This ostentatious display is meant to embarrass them into coughing up. Upon capitulation, the agent hands the victim a card bearing the phone number of a creditor.

It works like a charm. The agency says that two-thirds of debtors pay up straight away, though one hardened Scrooge put up with a rabbit trailing him for three days. Several others have called the police - but there is no law against dressing up as a pink bunny.

It's a lucrative little business. The agency charges about pounds 100 for 10 hours of the rabbit's time, while staff inside the costumes get pounds 40 a day. With the innovative Herr Hell struggling to keep up with demand, how long, I wonder, before the idea catches on here?

THERE WAS a clinking of champagne glasses in the offices of Coopers & Lybrand management consultants last night. One partner has transformed himself into a novelist.

Patrick McHugh has slaved for two and a half years over his book, The Chain Imperative, which claims to be Britain's first management novel, telling the story of a manufacturing company over three generations. 'It's a gripping story of how a single family used a humble washing machine to set in motion a revolutionary management concept,' gushes the blurb. The book is a belter. 'It was a dull November day. One of those occasions that makes you wonder how many shades of grey could possibly exist,' trills chapter two.

'It's not Dickens,' admits Mr McHugh who wrote the book together with Paul Hannon, a former FT journalist. 'But I'm quite pleased about the way we've managed to pull it all together.'

He has great plans: 'I'd like to see it develop like that James Herriot vet series and get it on the television.'

I HEAR that meeting room space at merchant bank Robert Fleming is at a premium. The bank has been lavishing dosh on redecorating eight meeting rooms that should have opened by now. The refurbishment is behind schedule because some fancy Oriental carpet being shipped in from the Far East has failed to show up. 'Why we couldn't just get something from Carpetright, I don't know,' says corporate finance director Roger Davies.

STUDENTS drink a lot of beer. This is the none too staggering conclusion in a report by Whitbread, the brewer, which states that the student market accounts for 22 per cent of all beer drunk in the 18-21 age bracket. Whitbread is doing its best to encourage the trend. Late last year it signed a deal with the National Union of Students to be the preferred supplier of brands such as Murphy's and Boddington in colleges and universities. As the banks have known for years, it's getting them young that counts.

MIKE BLACKBURN and his senior chums at Halifax Building Society gave a pretty rum show yesterday before the Treasury select committee. Halifax presented itself as a staunch advocate of higher standards of financial regulation and railed against the inadequacies of the PIA.

Unfortunately, this holier-than- thou image was undermined by the difficulty Halifax appeared to have in answering the most simple questions on commissions. Pressed by Labour MP Mike O'Brien to say how many ordinary members (ie, ordinary depositors) sat on the Halifax board, Mr Blackburn replied: 'We're all ordinary members.' Tut, tut.

THE ENTREPRENEUR of the 1990s is a caring, sharing businessman, according to a new survey by BT. Gone is the quick dash for profit, just being in business by the end of the year is the aim of most new enterprises. And who are the business idols of the moment? Richard Branson (yawn) is the person most start-ups would most like as a business partner. And Troubleshooter Sir John Harvey-Jones and hedge fund guru George Soros are considered 'useful associates'.

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