Pembroke: Smurfit goes for fortune and fame

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THINGS are looking up at last for Michael Smurfit, the Irish packaging tycoon and racehorse owner. News of the likely flotation of Smurfit Group's US associate, JSC, has lifted its shares to an all- time high in recent weeks.

And down on the farm it's also going well for Dr Smurfit. In November, he won Australia's greatest horse race, the Melbourne Gold Cup, with the Irish-trained Vintage Crop (the good honorary doctor is a wine buff).

Fortune and Fame, which also runs in his colours, is red-hot favourite for next month's Smurfit- sponsored Cheltenham Champion Hurdle. If it wins it would be a pretty handy way of recouping the sponsorship money. We might even see Dr Smurfit presenting the Gold Cup to himself . . .

TOUCHE ROSS'S offices in Crutched Friars were a bit, well, crutched yesterday. A power failure knocked out electricity, the telephones and computers. The good news was that the lifts, which are on a separate power source, kept going up and down, allowing Touche's management consultants, who occupy the building, to remain mobile at least. None the less, they were relieved when the lights went back on at the end of the day.

MOST QUOTED companies at least pay lip service to the notion that a wide shareholder base, full of small investors, is a good thing. The reality, of course, is that it is an administrative nightmare when it comes to paying the dividend and posting out the annual reports, not to mention the expense. But Budgens, the retailer, has come out of the closet and is encouraging its small shareholders to get out of its hair. The supermarkets group is offering a pounds 10 hamper to shareholders with fewer than 1,000 shares who sell their holdings through a special link-up with the Share Centre. There are 13,000 shareholders eligible and Christian Williams, a Budgens director, pointed out that some were receiving dividend cheques for as little as 12p in envelopes with 19p stamps on them.

HARTSTONE, the leather and hosiery group, was to raise pounds 45m selling Cogitex, its French manufacturer of tights, in a deal to halve its large debts. Completion was due on Monday, but last- minute hitches delayed the signing until the following day. On Monday night two feet of snow fell on the factory in Montpellier and the roof caved in. Hartstone insists all will be sorted out, but that day's delay may cost the group some of the pounds 45m originally agreed. It never rains, but it snows.

DUKE MCKENZIE, the former world bantamweight boxing champion, was drafted in by South Thames Training and Enterprise Council to promote the value of training to school leavers in Greenwich, south London. Many thanks to the TEC, which sent us a CV detailing Mr McKenzie's formidable record in the ring. But could they tell us about Mr McKenzie's educational qualifications? 'Er, no, I don't know anything about that,' a spokesman admitted. 'But he had to train hard for his boxing. . .'

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