Pembroke: Motor dealer Cowie is back behind the wheel

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The Independent Online
Sir Tom Cowie, the larger-than-life motor dealer, has returned to the fray. Sir Tom, who retired from T Cowie in December after more than 40 years at the helm, has resurfaced as a non-executive director of European Motor Holdings, the car dealer run by Richard Palmer.

Sir Tom played down suggestions that his swift return implied that he had left T Cowie a little earlier than he might have liked. 'I'd rather not comment on the past,' he said. 'Let's just say I'm pleased to be joining a happy team.' Asked whether that meant T Cowie was not a happy team, he said: 'You can draw your own conclusions.'

He is looking forward to working with some old friends such as Roger Smith, non-executive director of European Motor Holdings. 'It's nice to know that someone still wants me,' he said.

The rough and tumble jollity of Sir John Harvey Jones even extends to the great man's answering machine. Callers to his office in Ross-on-Wye receive the following message. 'Here at Parallax Enterprises, the office of that media star Sir John Harvey Jones, we think we have the best job in the country. The fact that it mostly consists of saying no in various inventive and charming ways doesn't put us off one bit. Go on. Leave a message and brighten up our day.'

Sir John's staff have indeed been saying no rather a lot recently as the former ICI chairman has been feeling rather unwell. All last week's appointments were cancelled, including a speaking engagement in Dubai (Sir John Banham gamely stood in at short notice), and staff were not sure whether he would be recovered for a book-signing session in Birmingham last night.

Sir John, thought to be suffering from a stomach complaint, faces a bit of a test with an engagement tonight: having a curry. Sir John, who was born in India, is hosting a 25th anniversary meal at Shezan, a fine Indian restaurant in London's Knightsbridge.

Iunderstand refurbishment work at Savoy Taylors Guild, the upmarket outfitters in the Strand, has accidentally uncovered some pleasant surprises. Workers dismantling an unsightly shirt rack found some very attractive wood panelling lurking behind.

The panelling, which is due for a thorough polishing, is the second 'find' at the shop. A year ago decorators working outside the shop accidentally chipped some paint off the front to reveal some splendid brass carving. 'I think it must date from the war when the Ministry of Defence commandeered all metalwork for the war effort,' says Rowland Gee, managing director of Moss Bros, the company's parent. 'I suppose it must have been painted over to conceal it.'

Geoff Morrow, director of the much-hyped Flora Aerobathon, is going scatty trying to organise 4,000 aerobics instructors and 860,000 bottles of water for his big day. The event takes place next month and will see upwards of 100,000 lycra-clad fitness enthusiasts take part in the mother of all step classes for charity.

But the aerobathon is a mere sideshow for Morrow. A songwriter by trade, he wrote 'Can't smile without you' for Barry Manilow and (it gets worse) 'There's a whole lotta loving'.

While the aerobathon is taking up most of his time, he has written the songs for a new musical called San Francisco and has just returned from the US where, he tells me, he has been trying to persuade Tom Jones to play the lead. 'He is considering it but wants to change some of the songs to suit his style,' he says.

The battle in the credit card market has extended to a version of car wars.

In January, Bank of Scotland announced a new credit card package backed by a chance to win one of 24 Renault Lagunas, each worth more than pounds 12,000. Over in Singapore, Standard Chartered has gone one better.

The bank is giving every 1,000th customer of its new credit card a spanking new Volkswagen Golf. This is a better prize than it sounds. In Singapore, a tiny island, the car tax is exorbitant to discourage motorists. A VW Golf would be worth about pounds 40,000.

(Photograph omitted)