Pembroke: Untying the family link

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Oliver Group, the loss-making shoe retailer with more than 400 shops in the UK, made a significant break with the past yesterday when it waved goodbye to its last family staffer. Louis Oliver, the group's 32-year-old buying and merchandising director, cleared his desk and put a presumably well-shod foot forward when he resigned to pursue other business interests.

Mr Oliver, a well-groomed former soldier, is the son of Ian Oliver, who resigned as chairman last year, and a direct descendant of George Oliver, who founded the business in 1860 when he opened his first shop in Willenhall in the West Midlands. 'He has been thinking about his future for some time,' the chairman, Graham Dunn, said.

Mr Oliver, who joined the company aged 20, will retain his 245,000 shares worth about pounds 90,000. 'I don't want to say too much about my plans but I want to broaden my experience,' he said. There was 'a touch of sadness' that the family connection was being severed.

It's not that sad. The family still owns more than 30 per cent of the company.

Confusion reigned at the High Court in London yesterday when the case between George Michael and his record company, Sony Music, failed to go ahead because Sony's leading lawyer had put his back out at the weekend. Gordon Pollock, QC, of Clintons, has a pig farm in Hertfordshire and apparently had something of an agricultural accident that left him flat out.

The case was initially resheduled for today, then, presumably because poor Mr Pollock's back is worse than first thought, put back further until next Monday.

'He has got osteopath appointments sorted out so he should be OK next week,' a spokesman said.

Irony of ironies yesterday when the bank called in by Tottenham Hotspur to help clear up its financial mess complained to the ref that the footie team had not paid its bill.

The merchant bank Brown Shipley was called in three years ago when Spurs were languishing in pounds 1m debt and being circled by predators.

Dismissed in 1991, the bank is now suing Spurs for pounds 408,000 fees and expenses it says have not been paid.

David Bruce, the man who launched a thousand hangovers with his Dogbolter ale when he founded the Firkin real ale pubs, turned up at Grosvenor Inns yesterday after a 'five-year sabbatical' to head a new pubs division called Belchers.

The name, he explains, comes from an alter ego, Bertie Belcher, that he created for himself. 'Everyone expects this sort of puerile behaviour from me so I couldn't disappoint them,' he said.

The advertising for Belcher beer is equally groan-worthy: 'The beer you will want to repeat.'

The Czechs might not appear to be a nation with money to burn, but their central bank begs to differ.

The bank burns 20 tons of invalid banknotes (worth about dollars 70m) every day. The currency, most of which is fed into an incinerator outside Prague, was issued by the now defunct Czech and Slovak federation and went out of circulation in August.

Ordinary Czechs with barbeques also get a chance to get in on the act. Some notes are ground up and pressed into briquettes that are sold for one crown (2p).

Aslight case of acute spelling disorder in an advert in the local branch of Safeway in Malton, North Yorkshire. 'For sale: one reproduction Ming dysentery vase. pounds 49.'

(Photograph omitted)