Pembroke: Slipped discs

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The Independent Online
It cannot be often that Gerald Kaufman, the softly spoken, music-loving chairman of the National Heritage select committee, is blamed for a company's problems. But blamed he is by 4-Play, the 40- strong chain of record stores run by Philip Ames, who ran the Virgin record shops for Richard Branson before their sale to Our Price.

Ames's business went into Company Voluntary Arrangement last week (a process designed to allow a company to trade through a difficult patch and keep creditors at bay) and he blamed three men: John Major, Norman Lamont and Gerald Kaufman.

According to Mr Ames, the Prime Minister and former Chancellor caused the recession, while the slightly less than pop-tastic Mr Kaufman sabotaged sales of compact discs. It was the Labour MP, you may remember, who acted as 'people's saviour' in the recent select committee investigation on CD prices, saying they were extortionate. 'A lot of people stopped buying them, even though we stock many at pounds 2.99,' protests Mr Ames. 'It was the straw that broke the camel's back.'

Mr Ames has since arranged a pounds 1m facility with an investment trust to keep his record shops going. Mr Kaufman should not expect a discount.

Avid readers of the 'Visit' section of Smith New Court's leisure letter might have spotted some warning signals about Resort Hotels, whose shares were suspended on Friday. For the most recent issue, analysts pitched up at the Preston Resort Hotel in Brighton, part of the group. Though enjoying 75 per cent occupancy, the hotel was getting only half its pounds 62.50 room rates and the building was looking a little shabby. 'We were assured that the fact that the maintenance man had put his back out was a contributory factor,' wrote the analysts. Maybe, maybe not.

It's July, so it must be time for the CBI's annual 'beware summertime conmen' campaign. The publicity-seeking, sorry, ethically- minded, industry group has put out its usual warning to companies short-staffed over the holiday period. Don't sign any silly photocopier contracts, it says, watch out for phoney fax and telex directories and eat your greens.

'Most of the tricks they (the conmen) perpetrate are 'chestnuts',' says Big Daddy CBI. 'But each summer, someone new falls for them.' And each summer, we get the same press release.

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