Pembroke: Lady T's new career gets off to a flying start

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The Independent Online
RUPERT MURDOCH clearly holds Baroness Thatcher in very high regard. Pembroke learns that as the Iron Lady travels across the US signing copies of her exhaustively trailed memoirs, Mr Murdoch has generously loaned her his private jet to zip between appointments.

This has meant that Mr Wapping has had to slum it on ordinary commercial flights. Why the generosity? Mr Murdoch owns Lady T's publisher, Harper Collins, so helping her to flog more books boosts his bottom line. He also owns the Sun, the paper that gave Lady Thatcher such rabid support during her Downing Street years. Then there is the cigarette connection. Mr Murdoch is a non-executive director of the American fags company Philip Morris, which pays Lady Thatcher a thumping pounds 550,000 a year for her 'consultancy'. Aren't friends useful?

FANS OF LILLIPUT, the company that makes the Lilliput Lane collection of miniature cottages, are getting really hot under their anorak collars in the run-up to the company's flotation.

NatWest Markets, which is sponsoring the offer, has been inundated with calls from nutty collectors who, having bought the merchandise, now want some shares. In 10 days NatWest has received more than 900 calls from collectors, including 150 in one day. As one person involved in the float put it: 'They're really committed. Like train spotters.'

SHELLEY VON STRUNCKEL, the illustriously named astrologer, has either developed an interesting sideline or the Pembroke fax machine has gone wonky. A note from the astrologer appeared in the Indepedent fax tray alongside a list of futures prices for Brent crude oil. Had she diversified into futures?

'No, that's not quite my scene,' Ms von Strunckel said from New York. 'But I have been advising some businesses on Gatt and Nafta recently' (convenient as the latter was passed yesterday). 'It's all about cycles.' And stars, presumably.

RICHARD BALLS, the fifth-generation managing director of the Balls Brothers chain of City wine bars and restaurants, was looking very jolly yesterday. Dressed in a dapper red and white striped shirt, he was positively beaming in the Moorgate branch as City folk gulped down bottles of Beaujolais Nouveau.

His branches served more than 400 Beaujolais breakfasts (not bad at pounds 13 a throw) and he hopes to shift 4,000 bottles of the fruity plonk by the end of the week.

There was another reason for his good humour. Mr Balls's wife is expecting their first child - a sixth-generation Balls - in January, and he hopes that the mite may one day darken the doors of the 150-year-old business.

(Photograph omitted)

ON A DAY when Amstrad's share price collapsed by 20 per cent following a profits warning, perhaps not surprising to see the computer company was advertising for a group finance manager in yesterday's FT.

The 'high profile' role, which we are told would suit a 29-35-year- old 'achiever' who is prepared to be based in Brentwood, Essex, encompasses the following tasks: consolidating the operating unit results, cash-flow forecasts and enhancing group reporting systems. How appropriate.