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Bernie flags off two-course race

BERNIE ECCLESTONE, head of Formula One, has managed to get Nicola Foulston of Brands Hatch and the owners of the rival Silverstone racing circuit to compete for the right to hold the British Grand Prix, his UK moneyspinner.

The British Racing Drivers Club (BRDC) owns Silverstone and has the contract with Mr Ecclestone to host the British Grand Prix until 2001. The BRDC recently tabled a restructuring plan to its 800-plus members, outlining how it would commercialise the historic Silverstone racetrack.

The BRDC is keen to keep Silverstone out of the grip of Ms Foulston. She hasn't tabled an official bid yet, but yesterday she published a two- page open letter to members of the BRDC in a car magazine. She said she accepted the BRDC's proposals for restructuring, but she still wants to buy Silverstone.

She has said previously that Mr Ecclestone has agreed to give her the British Grand Prix for 10 years if she wins Silverstone. The BRDC fears this is just Mr Ecclestone pitting the two against each other, in order to bid up the price of the grand prix. You can see why Mr Ecclestone got where he is today...

In the bag...

TETLEY GROUP, the world's second-biggest tea-bag company, yesterday made its second top management change in a month, appointing Stuart Wallis as non-executive chairman.

Mr Wallis is a heavyweight City figure. He chairs Seton Scholl Healthcare and John Mansfield Group, and he used to head Octopus Publishing, Bowater and Fisons. Tetley sources hope his arrival signals that the tea-bag group no longer considers itself an acquisition target, following last summer's pulled float.

Last month Leon Allan, chairman and chief executive, and Roger Price, finance director, stepped aside in favour of internal candidates Kenneth Pringle and Peter Undsworth respectively.

Taking control

SIR ROY MCNULTY, chairman of Shorts Brothers, the Belfast aerospace company, was yesterday named chairman of National Air Traffic Services (Nats) by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott.

Last year the Government said it wanted to sell or float 51 per cent of the service, which runs air-traffic control centres at Prestwick in Scotland and Swanick, near Southampton. The latter will not be fully up and running for several years, so any privatisation concerning Nats is some way off.

Which is just as well, as Mr Prescott has still to persuade several Labour backbenchers and recalcitrant trade unionists that part-privatising air- traffic control is a good idea.

Sir Roy will receive a salary of pounds 100,000 for working four days a week, and his term of office at Nats is two-and-a-half years from 1 May 1999. He replaces Sir Malcolm Field, chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority.

Stoddart's day

MICHAEL STODDART, chairman of Electra, could be excused for being a bit tense yesterday as he presented the case against 3i's hostile bid for the investment trust.

Mr Stoddart said it was his 38th wedding anniversary. He said he was "aware of the clash but could do nothing about it".

This may not have meant any great discord in the Stoddart household; Mr Stoddart added that he "always remembered [the date] but his wife didn't".

Kinkel business

GERMANY'S former foreign minister, Klaus Kinkel, has popped up as an adviser to Deutsche Telekom, the recently privatised phone giant. The group says Mr Kinkel's "foreign policy expertise will be available to Ron Sommer, Deutsche's chief executive". Some Germans wonder whether Mr Kinkel has been hired for other reasons as well. He was, after all, head of Germany's secret service before becoming Helmut Kohl's foreign minister.

Mr Kohl himself has bounced back from electoral defeat by becoming a member of the advisory board of Credit Suisse.

E-mail: j.willcock@independent.co.uk

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