People & Business

I hear that Elisabeth Murdoch's husband, Ghanaian born Elkin Pianmin, has decamped back to the United States, apparently fed up with Britain and the Brits following an unhappy adventure into British ethnic publishing with the New Nation newspaper. His stake in the venture, aimed largely at London's black community, has been sold. Also abandoned in Mr Pianmin's return to the US West Coast is his plan to launch a new black TV station in the UK.

So where does that leave the 290-year-old Ms Murdoch, who remains in London working for her pa's media empire as head of programming at BSkyB. Minus a husband seems to be the answer. She's even had to rely on the services of such maverick entrepreneurs as the carrot-topped DJ Chris Evans as an escort at the many functions her job requires her to attend. What a comedown.

All of which may help explain the pounds 3m sponsorship deal BSkyB has just signed with Mr Evans' Virgin Radio. It might also cause Murdoch senior to rethink his plans for the succession. At present his youngest son Lachlan has been pencilled in to take up the reigns. Elisabeth, he said recently, would have to make up her mind about how many kids she wanted and where she wanted to live. Not any longer, it would appear.

They're fighting in the forecourts. In the right corner, James Frost, the combative chairman of petrol retailer Save Group. And over by the air pump, Dean Overton, the former managing director who was sacked by Mr Frost for "gross misconduct" in November.

Mr Overton is suing his former employers for "a very substantial sum in damages" and has written to Save's shareholders to tell them so. Now Mr Frost has thrown petrol on the fire by revealing why Mr Overton was sacked. He claims Mr Overton dismissed two long-serving Save employees who subsequently had to be paid compensation. Mr Overton also wrote "threatening" letters to licensees who were suspected of opening their stations late, he claimed.

Mr Overton protests that he was just following orders. "I'm a very loyal person," he tells me. "If I'm instructed to do something then that is what I do." Mr Frost, meanwhile, refuses to pay a penny. "I wouldn't buy off a forecourt attendant, and I won't buy off a managing director either," he thunders. Get ready for round three.

Good to hear that the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has called in Docman to sort out its IT problems. Each court case the SFO brings involves hundreds of thousands, often millions, of pieces of paper as evidence. Docman, an IBM computer system costing pounds 15m, should sort it out.

I was a little disconcerted, however, by the accompanying claim from the SFO's director, Rosalind Wright, yesterday, that "The SFO is a world- leader in the investigation and prosecution of major fraud cases." Cripes. The rest can't be up to much. Don't mention the Maxwells, Blue Arrow, Roger Levitt ...

You would think that, having trousered pounds 50m from selling his shares in Betterware, chairman Andrew Cohen would be keen to plough more money into his stable of racehorses. After all, one of the Brummie entrepreneur's nags, Suny Bay, is third favourite to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March.

Not a bit of it. Mr Cohen tells me he is thinking of reducing his spending on racing, centred on his stables at Lambourn, in Berkshire. He says he agrees with the Makhtoum family's recent criticisms of British horse racing and the lack of adequate prize money. Which makes you wonder - just when will he have enough money? And what will he do with his present pile? He already has the best collection of Charlie Chaplin memorabilia in the world.

The European Monetary Institute, the forerunner of the planned European Central Bank, and one of key players in shaping monetary union, yesterday confessed shamefacedly that it doesn't have its own Internet site. The only site that the EMI does feature on is run by the European Commission, and site hasn't been updated for two years. Quel horreur!

Chastened Euromandarins at the EMI promised yesterday that they will launch their own site this month. Meanwhile if you're one of those interesting people who really need to know the latest about monetary union, stick to the British Government site at http://presid.fco.gov.uk

It seems you can hardly move in modern offices without being molested by experts in Feng Shui, the Chinese art of creating a harmonious environment. I was delighted therefore to read in a booklet published by President Office Furniture, titled "Everything you wanted to know about offices but were afraid to ask II", that Feng Shui, literally translated means "wind and water". I suspected as much.

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