People and; Business: Nice Gucci outfit for sale

WHEN Paolo Gucci, flamboyant member of the Italian fashion dynasty, died recently, he was still bankrupt, having divorced his wife and suffered financial ruin three years ago. Now Mr Gucci's American -appointed trustee in bankruptcy, Frank Sinatra (apparently, Sinatra is a common name in New York Italian circles), is using a British accountant David Coyne of Buchler Phillips to sell the Gucci country house and stud farm in Sussex, Millfield Farm.

Anyway, the farm made big news recently following Mr Gucci's death, since the horses in the stud farm had no one to look after them, and eventually had to be rescued by the RSPCA.

Interestingly, Mr Coyne was appointed to sell Millfield Farm by Judge Ferris, the same judge who criticised Buchler Phillips for charging more than it recovered for creditors from the estate of the late Robert Maxwell. Nice to know there is forgiveness in the Royal Courts of Justice.

NOW THAT the Queen has opened the Financial Services Authority's new head office in Canary Wharf, London, the pressure is on to complete the regulator's senior appointments. Yesterday The Treasury named another four non-executive directors to the board, and a deputy to Howard Davies, the FSA's chairman, will be unveiled "any day now".

One of the four appointees, Gill Knott, is about to step down as chief executive of Proshare after five years at the helm.

Under her leadership the non-profit body has grown the number of investment clubs in the UK from about 300 18 months ago to over 3,000 today, in its campaign to educate the public about share ownership.

Ms Knott says she fought off between 400 and 600 other applicants for the FSA job. Is she looking forward to working in London's Docklands, I ask?

"Yes, that's fine," she laughs. "Its so important for UK Plc and the community at large that the FSA gets it right - there's a real lack of public confidence in financial services at the moment."

The other three joining the board are Moira Black, chairman of the Riverside Community Health Care NHS Trust, Shamit Saggar, a senior lecturer in government at Queen Mary & Westfield College, University of London, and Keith Whitson, group chief executive of HSBC.

STEVE MELCHER faces one of the biggest challenges of his career - as the newly appointed general manager for Sun Life of Canada in the UK.

The American educated Brit was chief executive of Allied Dunbar and Eagle Star before leaving BAT last year, ahead of their merger with Zurich.

Mr Melcher has now resurfaced at SLoC on an undisclosed package. He is joining a company which suffered its first ever world-wide loss this year. SLoC had to set aside over pounds 300m against pensions mis-selling and annuity guarantees problems, and was fined pounds 600,000 by the Personal Investment Authority for failings in its treatment of pension mis-selling.

All this and they're planning to demutualise next year, a move which will value SLoC at pounds 2-pounds 3bn. The company's 200,000 UK policyholders are looking forward to windfalls of pounds 1,000 each. Whatever happens, Mr Melcher won't be bored.

TONY ABBOTTS, a project manager with International Mining Consultants (IMC), has won the British Consultant of the Year award for helping to build Egypt's first underground coal mine.

The UK's Department for International Development (DFID) lent pounds 50m to Egypt for the project, much of which has flowed back in the form of orders for mining equipment. The mine at Maghara is the only underground coal mine in the Middle East, so the Egyptians had to start from scratch, as it were.

FACT OF the day: The UK's per capita consumption of petrol is the highest in Europe at 597 kilograms in 1997.

The global analysts Euromonitor say we use a total of 35 million tonnes, second only to Germany's 38.2 million. No one else comes close - Italy is third with 17.7 million, while Ireland and Norway use an ozone-friendly 1.5 million.

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