Pembroke: Smokescreen hides First Leisure's ideals

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The Independent Online
THE HIGH-OCTANE triumvirate that runs First Leisure seemed blissfully unaware of a moment of irony during yesterday's results meeting.

Announcing that the acquisition of ISL, which owns the Berkshire Racquets and Health Club, opened the way for further expansion in the health and leisure field, Lord Rayne, chairman, promptly lit one of his Dunhills while the chief executive, John Conlon, and finance director, Graham Coles, puffed plumes of smoke from their cigars.

Lord Rayne, whose company also owns the Chichester Marina, denied that the marina was undergoing rapid organic expansion as a result of flooding in the area. Moorings, it seems, are not to be let in the high street.

HENLYS, the motor dealer, picked up a good man yesterday when it appointed James Watson, the silver-haired chairman of NFC, as a non-executive director. Mr Watson's commercial acumen is not in doubt. He was, after all, finance director of the model employee buyout which made him a millionaire.

But his judgement on football matters might raise an eyebrow or two. A keen Watford supporter, he once said of the former Watford and England manager Graham Taylor: 'I have met him a few times and I was always impressed by his ability to motivate people. He's the sort of guy I'd like in our business.'

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SAD TO SEE that Britain's yachting fraternity will not have a boat to cheer on in the 1995 America's Cup. An empty piggybank, as usual, has sunk all hopes.

Pembroke understands that Richard Matthews, chairman of the fund-raising syndicate, had pinned his hopes on cash from Kingfisher, among others. The courtship in Kingfisher's case was lengthy as keen yachtsman Sir Geoffrey Mulcahy is a personal friend of Mr Matthews.

Kingfisher apparently got cold feet a long time ago but delayed the 'Dear John' letter. The embarrassment of turning a good friend down, perhaps?

IS LONDON UNDERGROUND running its service for the benefit of its customers or its workers? Commuters travelling north on the Northern Line yesterday morning must have wondered.

Passengers were bemused when the guard's voice crackled over the intercom telling the driver he wanted to nip out and make a phone call as they drew into The Oval in south London.

A few moments later he was back and another conversation burbled over the speakers saying he couldn't find a telephone, so could he get out at London Bridge? The driver agreed and the guard leapt out. As the frustrated commuters checked their watches, he came back and triumphantly announced to his colleague that all was well. Nice of him to get his priorities right.

MORE PLAUDITS for those ever so nice people at Marks and Spencer. The chairman and chief executive, Sir Richard Greenbury, is the NatWest Securities retailer of the year with a landslide 32 per cent of the vote, beating runner-up David Jones for his turnround work at Next and Kingfisher's Sir Geoffrey Mulcahy, who was third.

The list does not make pretty reading for the food chains. Sainsbury and Tesco weren't in sight.

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