People & Business

It seems that Sam Chisholm, the so-called "bruiser of the box", is looking forward to taking a back seat at BSkyB. So much so that, according to some of BSkyB's institutional investors, he is expected to step down a month and a half earlier than planned. Mr Chisholm, whose confrontational management style has made him a legend within the industry, is preparing to bow out at the annual general meeting in a week's time. He had been braced to hang on until the new year.

The way will now be left clear for Mark Booth, the chief executive-in- waiting, to seize the reins and make his mark on the company. He had formerly been chief operating officer of Rupert Murdoch's JSkyB for just six months before he was thrust into the hot-seat at BSkyB. Although a relative unknown in the UK, Mr Booth is already beginning to make his views on BSkyB's future known.

Sources tell me he is keen to boost the company's programming expertise and may even consider investing in independent production companies.

However, Mr Chisholm, who announced in June that he was to step down due to poor health, is going to be keeping a close eye on the company's progress. He, like his deputy, David Chance, who is also quitting at the end of the year, will remain as "consultants". And, judging by Mr Chisholm's propensity to make his views widely known, Mr Booth is unlikely to be short of advice.

For someone who jokes that he is "way past my sell-by date", Tom Vyner, current deputy chairman and former chief executive of Sainsbury's, has plenty planned for his twilight years. Mr Vyner is scheduled to retire from the company he loyally describes as "the UK's best retailer" next January after 20 years of service.

Not content with supping pints at West Country brewer Ushers, of which he is chairman, as well as learning about cosmetics courtesy of L'Oreal UK, which yesterday announced his appointment as vice chairman, Mr Vyner also hopes to spend some time on his boat, Miss Poppy.

The origin of the boat's name, it seems, is not some dear old aunt, as one might imagine, but rather an ancient TV series. "You see, it's because it's registered with Lloyds," confided Mr Vyner yesterday, "and you have to have a unique name. My wife and I went through 50 or 60 names, with no success." But Mrs Vyner finally saved the day with Miss Poppy, the name of a "lovely lady" she had been watching on TV.

The plans don't stop there for the energetic Mr Vyner. The animal-loving ex-Sainsbury's chief is on the fund-raising committee for the Blue Cross's centenary appeal. The charity, known as "the Red Cross of the animal kingdom", wants to raise pounds 500m for its animal hospital, based in Victoria. "It's a lovely charity," said Mr Vyner, who is also on the Blue Cross's governing committee. Perhaps the man once dubbed the "rottweiler of Stamford Street" for his aggressive buying techniques really is a puppy dog, after all.

The ambition of Perween Warsi, the 1996 Woman Entrepreneur of the World, used to be to have her Indian cuisine "in every household in the UK". But Mrs Warsi, whose business, S&A Foods, is a major supplier of ready- made Indian meals to Safeway and Asda, must have more or less reached that goal by now.

Not being one to rest one her laurels, Mrs Warsi, who began by selling home-made samosas to a local deli in Derby, now wants to see her food "in every household in the world", according to a spokesperson. Given the news last week that her firm has secured a lucrative contract with British Airways, it shouldn't be too long before Mrs Warsi outgrows that ambition too.

Since the tragic death of Diana, Princess of Wales, many in the media have faced sharp criticism for the use of "cheque-book journalism", or the phenomenon of paying an interviewee for their time and information. Politically, of course, it is the left which has been most vociferous in pursuing this cause. So how strange it seems to find that one major political figure who insists on this old-fashioned practice is none other than the Red Baroness, Barbara Castle.

In a bravura performance at last year's Labour Party conference, it was the Baroness who boldly attacked Gordon Brown and Tony Blair for failing to mention pensioners in their electoral programme.

She led a siren call for pensions to be updated in line with earnings, not inflation. Surely the nation should know more about her views? Well, if you want to interview the Baroness, resplendent in her Parliamentary pension and her life peer's allowances, be warned that she demands a fee.

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