People and business: C&G retiree finds little time to tee up

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The Independent Online
ANDREW LONGHURST, the urbane former head of Cheltenham & Gloucester Building Society, who guided C&G into the arms of Lloyds TSB, has just collected his third non-executive directorship since leaving the bank this spring.

Mr Longhurst has joined Thames Water, the company which is currently trying to decide whether it wants to become a broad-based utility by bidding for London Electricity. Plenty for Mr Longhurst to get his teeth into there.

In fact, even his beloved golf has had to take a back seat following his so-called "retirement", so I'm told. His main non-exec role is at United Assurance, where he is due to become chairman on 1 October.

United Assurance has had a bumpy ride since it was formed by merging United Friendly and Refuge Assurance last year. Coincidentally United's new chief executive, who replaced George Mack, is Alan Frost, once of Lloyds Abbey Life.

United, with assets of about pounds 2bn, has been reducing its sales force, and Mr Longhurst will have his work cut out helping to improve morale at the group.

Mr Longhurst's third non-executive directorship is at Hermes Lens Asset Management (HLAM), a joint venture between the British Telecom pension fund and an American company, Lens. HLAM officially launches on 1 October.

Peter Butler, HLAM's chief executive, tells me that the fund aims to attract around pounds 100m in institutional funds by the time of the launch. HLAM is "a shareholder activism fund which will invest in under-valued companies, and work with their managements to improve value", says Mr Butler.

Hermes old boy and shareholders' champion Alastair Ross Goobey will be joint deputy chairman. Mr Butler is relatively new to the fund management world, having spent 20 years as a trouble-shooting finance director. In his time he has been found at Hi Tech Sports, British Sugar and Berisford, the latter during its workout phase.

Mr Butler says: "We're delighted that Andrew (Longhurst) has joined us in this exciting project".

STYLO, the family-owned shoe retailer based in Bradford, said yesterday that Alwyn Ziff has retired as an executive director.

That still leaves Arnold Ziff as chairman, Michael Ziff as chief executive, and Alan Ziff, as executive director.

Stylo has an old-fashioned two-tier share structure, despite being shaken up recently by some share buying from Guinness Peat Group. Perhaps HLAM should take a look.

ARSENAL HAVE always attracted more corporate supporters than most, and Hambros has always had rather a posh box at Highbury, with an elegantly painted sign on the door, saying "Hambros".

Since the merchant bank's dismemberment and takeover by Societe Generale, however, I am distressed to report that the same corporate hospitality box now sports a tatty piece of paper on the door saying "Societe Generale".

Still, I suppose we should be pleased the French are keeping up the tradition. Perhaps this Gallic enthusiasm reflects the very French contribution to Arsenal's recent success - from the manager Arsene Wenger to World Cup heroes Patrick Viera and Emmanuel Petit.

But come on Soc Gen - get a decent sign for your box.

ANDREW BILES is joining Gerber Foods as chief executive, succeeding Zvi Cohen as head of the UK's leading maker of juice and juice drinks.

In fact Mr Cohen's quarter of a century in the trade has won him the accolade of "Mr Juicy". Retiring after his 60th birthday, Mr Cohen has built Gerber into a group that now produces brands ranging from Um Bongo to Ocean Spray. Gerber is a subsidiary of Hanover Acceptances Group.

Mr Biles, 46, was previously chief operating officer of Dole Europe and based in Paris. Dole is one of the world's largest fresh fruit 'n' veg companies, with sales of $4bn.