People and Business

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The Independent Online
YOUR STARTER for 10: Who inherited a family undertaking business in Manchester, now owns Land's End and John O'Groats, rescued the company that made Del Boy's Reliant Robin, and has just bought the Snowdon Mountain Railway?

Step forward Kevin Leech, a 55-year-old professional investor, who has just been approached by the National Trust to see how the two will get on as neighbours, now that the Trust is set to buy the peak of Snowdon.

When Mr Leech bought the railway three weeks ago, he had no idea that Richard Williams, whose family had farmed a third of Snowdon for 14 generations, wanted to sell a 4,000-acre area of the mountain, including the peak.

Then a week ago the National Trust announced it had agreed with the vendor's agents, Carter Jonas, to buy Snowdon for over pounds 3 million. The Trust was given 100 days to raise the money. The appeal got off to a roaring start when Sir Anthony Hopkins, the Welsh-born actor of "Hannibal Lector" fame, donated pounds 1m to the cause.

In a bizarre coincidence, the the managing director of the Snowdon Mountain Railway is also called Anthony Hopkins. Obviously it is a popular name in Wales. Perhaps that's why the railway man prefers to be addressed as "Tony" Hopkins.

Mr Leach's railway, the only rack-and-pinion railway in the UK, runs from Llanberis in north Wales, 343ft above sea level, to the summit station on Snowdon, 3,493ft above sea level, which is also the highest railway station in the UK.

In another coincidence, Mr Leach learnt mountaineering on Snowdon in his youth, and he became an instructor there at pounds 10 a week plus board. He definitely couldn't afford to use the railway then, he says.

Speaking after the railway deal was clinched, Mr Leach said: "Although it is too early to discuss details, I intend to upgrade the existing facilities, but anything I do will be in keeping with the beauty and drama of the site.

"I believe that what I have done at Land's End and my plans for John O'Groats will be a reassurance to anyone concerned about the railway - whatever their point of interest, either economic or environmental - that I shall be a sensitive caretaker of this national institution."

Now it seems that the Trust and the entrepreneur are warming to each other. Peter Broomhead, director of the National Trust in Wales, has been in touch with Mr Leach to talk about how they are going to get on as "new neighbours".

"MILLENIUM BUG to Fire Bug" is the catchy title of an upcoming one-day conference arranged by Post Magazine on the threat of arson posed by the 2000 bug.

The insurance weekly's conference on 12 October will discuss the fear that "many businesses will fail to tackle the millenium bug adequately and will see torching their business and submitting an insurance claim as a soft option."

It's not quite as far fetched as it sounds. According to the Arson Prevention Bureau, over 240 fires are started deliberately in the UK each day.

THE BAR COUNCIL is fed up with attacks on the profession, especially recent accusations that leading silks had over-claimed on Legal Aid. The Bar Council has responded by appointing Shandwick, the City public relations firm, to portray the bewigged ones in a more favourable light. If they can do that, then never will a professional fee be more deserved.

MISYS, which develops and sells computer systems, is a comparatively young company floated in 1987 and this year became the only IT stock to enter the FTSE. The company is now looking for its first-ever corporate spin doctor. The job will pay a cool pounds 100,000, so get your CV in now.