People and Business: Lord Harris buys back a piece of his own history

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The Independent Online
AMONG THE 29 shops which Lord Harris of Peckham bought back from Carpetland yesterday was the second shop he ever worked in, in Penge, with his father Charles Harris, back in 1961.

Lord Harris firmly denies that he bought the shops yesterday for sentimental reasons, although two were old Harris stores from his Harris Queensway days which were sold by him in the 1980s. He does, however, admit that when the deal went through on Sunday night he turned to his wife and said: "At last I've got my name back."

Lord Harris still owns the first shop in Penge, South-east London, in which he worked with his father, in 1957. "He died at the age of 37, and I took over the business at 15."

Of the shops he acquired yesterday, 19 were Carpetland and half a dozen were Allied stores "which we were really pleased to get hold of," he says.

There is one final sentimental link. "I did my very first takeover in 1972 of Keith Royal, one of the Allied shops we bought back."

PETER DE SAVARY is currently in South Carolina developing another of his Carnegie Club luxury hotels at a place called Cherokee Plantation, just outside the Old South coastal city of Charleston.

Mr de Savary will return to the UK next Monday for a slightly less glamorous meeting - with Penwith District Council in Cornwall. The cigar-chomping entrepreneur will be seeking planning permission to turn the site of the Penzance Dry Dock & Engineering Company into a holiday resort.

Mr de Savary bought the ship repair company three years ago. Most of its 45 staff were laid off recently because of the loss of a pounds 1.5m contract. Now its fate depends on three other companies that are bidding for it as a going concern. If the best bid fails to satisfy Mr de Savary, he intends to turn the yard into a hotel, according to the yard's managing director, Mike Thomas.

More than 90 per cent of the yard's work is commercial, renovating dredgers and trawlers up to 75 metres in length. It also does specialist structural steelwork, and built the central section of the cocoon-like Media Centre stand at Lord's Cricket Ground in London.

Back in Penzance, Mr Thomas says that "we've kept on half a dozen men on a care and maintenance basis to keep the company ticking over".

By the end of the week he will have learnt whether the dry dock is to follow Skybo Castle in Scotland into Mr de Savary's roster of luxury hotels.

MARTIN GRANT has made his first senior appointments since he took over as chief executive of Vaux Group in June with the brief of turning the business from a breweries company into a modern leisure group.

The hotels, pub and leisure company has recruited David Flowers from Rank to be property and development director, and Richard Hunt comes in from Allied Domecq, Mr Grant's old company, to be managing director of Vaux's Pub Division. David Wilde moves over from retail director to become group purchasing director.

Mr Grant says this is "the first stage of reshaping the company". Two months ago he put the two original breweries at Sunderland and Sheffield up for sale along with 350 pub tenancies.

One scion of the Nicholson family which founded Vaux in 1837, Frank Nicholson, is still managing director of the breweries division, while Paul Nicholson is chairman. Frank Nicholson is leading an MBO bid for the breweries.

Vaux's advisers, Noble Grossart and BT Alex.Brown, expect to announce the winning bidder for the brewer business in mid-December.

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