Pembroke: Savoy stint buries takeover plot

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The Independent Online
An amusing tale in the funeral business reaches my ears. On 30 May bank holiday, Bill Heiligbrodt, chief executive of the American Service Corporation International, swung into London. His mission: to take over Great Southern, one of Britain's largest funeral director groups. 'We're well prepared. We're here till it's over,' he announced. Well, not that well prepared it turned out.

I understand that on arrival in London town, as Mr Heiligbrodt probably calls it, the great man parked his jet at Heathrow and installed himself in a suite at the Savoy.

There was only one problem. He couldn't seem to locate James Smillie, Great Southern's chairman, to discuss the deal. Odd really, because Mr Smillie was staying at the same hotel. His wife Chloe had booked them in for a surprise weekend treat.

Keith Edelman, who left Carlton Communications for the top job at Storehouse last year, is becoming quite a retailer. At the sweltering opening of the new Blazer menswear shop on London's Jermyn Street yesterday, he was busy promoting the shop's half-price leather wallets. 'Want a wallet,' he kept asking bemused guests, who wandered anywhere near him in the crowded store.

Will Carling, who used to buy clothes at Blazer before the chain gave him a rather better deal, was also on hand for the opening.

Hot off the plane from England's rugby tour of South Africa (and in a week which will see him move house and get married), he was somewhat taken aback to be introduced to a South African gentleman within minutes.

'I can see why they left you here,' Carling said to the modestly sized chap. 'All the big ones are at home.'

On the subject of Storehouse, the BhS and Mothercare retailer is obviously so tired of directors leaving after five minutes that it is trying to tie them to the board table with money.

This, you may recall, is a company that has lost David Dworkin, Ann Iverson and various other top brass after brief stays.

So, as well as paying Mr Edelman an annualised salary of pounds 600,000, a new long-term bonus scheme has been introduced.

Based on performance over three years (a gold watch stint in Storehouse terms), directors will be paid in shares depending on earnings per share and share price performance. That is unless you are Steve Bedford.

Mr Bedford, development director, has been on the board so long (two years) that he is to be rewarded for his unswerving loyalty. He gets a bonus regardless of the financial criteria that applies to the other directors. Nice work, if you can get it.

Roy Hattersley and ex- Goodie Graeme Garden are not names readily associated with management training but the pair appeared on the same stage in London yesterday. The reason was the launch of a rather complicated new survey by Huthwaite, a Rotherham- based training agency.

But Dr Garden, who is a director of management training company Video Arts, has good news for Goodies fans. He tells me that the BBC plans to issue video highlights by Christmas.

It is not, however, the beckoning finger of rediscovered fame that seems uppermost in the former Goodie's mind. 'I'm hoping it might be a bit of an earner,' he says.

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