Pembroke: Hooks and uppercuts of outrageous fortune

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The Independent Online
PANOS ELIADES, the insolvency practitioner and friend of the fallen financier Roger Levitt, will look back on 1993 as a financial winner. It was Mr Eliades who, having raised Mr Levitt's bail money (they were neighbours and fellow football fans), bought the management contract for boxer Lennox Lewis from the Levitt Group's liquidators in 1991.

The price: a bargain basement pounds 18,000. At the time, Lewis was a virtual unknown. Now, according to the new Forbes list of the world's highest-earning athletes, he ranks seventh, with earnings of dollars 15m, behind Michael Jordan (dollars 36m) and Riddick Bowe (dollars 25m).

Although Mr Eliades, a Greek Cypriot, has invested a further pounds 1.6m in Lewis, he stands to get 30 per cent of Lewis' purses. That means about dollars 4m less costs last year. 'We are making a profit, but it's only hundreds of thousands,' Mr Eliades insists. But with possible fights against the heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield, and maybe even Mike Tyson, Mr Eliades will be quids in.

'Two years ago I had never been to a boxing match. But Roger Levitt, great salesman that he is, sold the idea to me.'

GEC's CHAIRMAN, Lord Weinstock, has shown how he feels about the mega-salaries and thumping bonuses going to City high-flyers this Christmas. On the BBC's Desert Island Discs he meted out one of the put- downs of the year to overpaid City suits. He said he has 'always been somewhat apprehensive about the City'. It had 'vast incomes and fantastic lifestyles. They must be performing some sort of service but it's not always possible to see what it is.'

A reference to Goldman Sachs' new millionaire club perhaps?

IT'S THE BUSIEST time of the year for Peter Johnson. As chairman of Park Foods, Britain's leading supplier of Christmas hampers, this is when the baskets of goodies flood out from the offices in Birkenhead, Merseyside. Not that his cash flow is seasonal. The company operates like a large savings club, where thrifty subscribers, about a million of them, put a bit of money by each week to save up for a hamper.

'We peaked at about pounds 65m in cash this year,' said Mr Johnson, who is rather enjoying himself at the moment. He is chairman of Tranmere Rovers Football Club, which is gunning for promotion to the Premier League, And in the new year he is off to the sun-soaked sands of Barbados. Tough life.

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BO GORANSON must have been smiling last week when the Intrum Justitia sailed into Fremantle harbour in Western Australia. The boat, which receives pounds 3m sponsorship from Intrum Justitia, Mr Goranson's London- quoted debt-collecting agency, had just won the second leg of the Whitbread round-the-world yacht race. The victory kept its share price floating nicely on the breeze. Earlier in the year, the group's shares were languishing at 80p. Helped by a fair wind and a booming market, they have escalated to 128p. Good news for Mr Goranson, himself a keen yachtsman. He owns 30 per cent of the shares.

THE MERCHANT BANK Merrill Lynch was doing its bit for charity yesterday with its annual pensioners' phone freebie. Pensioners were invited into the Merrill Lynch offices across Europe to make a free phone call anywhere in the world (up to 30 minutes). Nuns, Chelsea Pensioners and other groups sat down in dealing rooms to hook up with their nearest and dearest. Santa and champagne were on hand.

MORE LLOYD'S misery. The wife of a Lloyd's underwriter, bewildered by the complex 200-page document detailing the pounds 900m payout to members, passed it over to her husband to read. Dutifully, he stayed up all night reading it to see what his family would be entitled to under the deal. Turning to the relevant page listing the criteria, he found the answer. Nil.