Pembroke: More than the sum of its moving parts

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BABCOCK INTERNATIONAL has snapped up Lord Hesketh, who resigned as the Government's chief whip in the House of Lords last month, as a non-executive director. Before that he was Minister of State for Trade and Industry and, as Babcock commented yesterday, he has 'extensive national and international experience, politically and commercially . . .'

His business acumen is more questionable. True, in 1972 he bought a 55,000-acre estate in Scotland and sold it, 18 months later, for six times what he paid. But he's best remembered for a doomed love affair with motorcycles in the late 1970s that ended messily when his company went bust after making 290 machines. He lost pounds 750,000 and other investors lost pounds 1.8m.

'With 20-20 hindsight,' Lord Hesketh volunteered earlier this year, 'what we should have done was design a high-tech bottle opener with not more than three moving parts.' Admirable candour from an Honorary Fellow of the Society of Engineers.

THE MOST interesting angle to emerge from the management buy-in of Hackney Wick Greyhound Stadium from Brent Walker is the royal connection. Not only does greyhound racing apparently date back to the Egyptian pharoahs, but the Princess Royal owns several greyhounds, Prince Philip won the Derby with Camira Flash, and Prince Edward owns Druids Johno, which was favourite to win the 1991 Derby but didn't.

THE WORST part of filling in CV forms always comes after you've cantered through glittering spells in the Cubs and the church choir, and holiday jobs in Foyles. It's that tiresome section asking for 'interests and activities relevant to your application' or rather - like one from the London Business School - who you would most like to invite to dinner.

The form, sent to those anxious to join the MBA Class of 1995, provoked the usual suspects: Margaret Thatcher; Bill Clinton; Madonna; Jesus Christ, etc. 'To an extent this exercise is as frivolous as it sounds - it adds some fun to the whole admissions process,' concedes Mary Anne Waikart, associate dean of the MBA Programme. 'But in telling us their reasons for wanting to invite these people, the candidates also tell us something about themselves . . . '

Well quite. Another question asked which world event candidates saw as most significant. Nearly half said the end of the Cold War, others, the Gulf war and the Single Market. What we want to know is, who was the smart-arse who went for the 'occidentalisation of Peru'?

THERE IS A seminal tale about the unreliability of MiG jets belonging to the former USSR. Many would crash, the story went, because Soviet mechanics, desperate for alcohol, would lie beneath aircraft and empty the fluid from the hydraulic systems into their mouths.

This may explain the experience of IDV, the drinks subsidiary of Grand Metropolitan, which is involved in a joint venture in Russia to produce Smirnoff. IDV, we hear, quickly taught Russian colleagues how to produce clean-tasting vodka only to find that Muscovite tipplers didn't like the pure taste. Since then, however, they have arrived at a magic formula. Sales have soared from 10,000 to 500,000 cases despite the disincentive of 200 per cent duty.

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