People and Business: Ronson douses the flame of writ

HOWARD HODGSON and his girlfriend Christine Pickles have settled their pounds 500,000 claim against Ronson, the cigarette-lighter company from which they were forced to resign last summer.

The duo issued a writ demanding compensation for loss of office equal to two years of Mr Hodgson's salary, pounds 191,000, and one year of Ms Pickles's salary of pounds 99,000.

The company initially resisted the claim, but now all is sweetness and light, I hear.

A spokeswoman for Ronson confirms that the company has settled the pair's claim, but adds tantalisingly that further details of the settlement will only be revealed in Ronson's accounts. These are due to be published along with Ronson's refinancing "fairly soon", she said.

Ms Pickles, formerly corporate development director at Ronson, has since popped up as chief finance officer of Cap Gemini UK, the British arm of the French software services group.

Mr Hodgson made his first fortune building the world's biggest undertakers' business before selling up in the early 1990s. He then headed up Ronson, but fell foul of shareholders after issuing two profits warnings in three months.

He also received a lot of stick over his relationship with Ms Pickles, then corporate development director. The tabloids accused him of "bringing the bedroom into the boardroom," and the like.

Ronson is now run by Victor Kiam, "the man who liked it so much he bought the company" - or however the slogan went .

Mr Hodgson has joined Colibri, Ronson's main British competitor, and a lighter company Mr Hodgson sought to "bury" when was still at Ronson.

Somehow I don't think we've heard the last of him.

FORGET THE rouble; billionaire speculator George Soros is stalking new prey - in Basingstoke.

Mr Soros injected pounds 100m into a British property vehicle called Delancey a couple of months ago, and now the company has bought Mountbatten House, an office building in Basingstoke, from Barclays for pounds 16.4m. Is nowhere safe from Mr Soros's clutches?

Delancey is run by James Ritblat, Sir John Ritblat's son, and chaired by John Manser, chairman of Robert Fleming, the investment bank.

Expect more acquisitions soon.

THIS IS the story the accountancy profession would dearly love to forget:

In 1992 five of the UK's six accountancy bodies got together with the BBC and BPB, a training company, to set up Accountancy Television.

The idea was that the company would transmit accountancy training programmes in the middle of the night, which would be videoed by trainee bean counters and replayed at a more convenient hour. The founders invested pounds 1.45m in the venture.

Accountancy TV went bust, much to the embarrassment of all concerned. It then ran into problems and was put into receivership in 1994. The receivers sold the leftovers to Television Education Network, a video service for accountants and lawyers.

Worse still, the fallout of the affair lingers on to remind everyone of the debacle. The liquidators of Accountancy TV, Horwath Clark Whitehill, have just announced that while there is some money in the pot, unsecured creditors are likely to receive nothing.

The liquidators have received 42 firm claims from creditors totalling pounds 539,400, and a further 743 potential claims of around pounds 554,500. The amount the liquidators have recovered to pay off creditors amounts to pounds 9,173.

As a result, the liquidator is to ask creditors to pass a resolution at the next creditors' meeting that any payout of less than pounds 10 should instead by paid into the Insolvency Services Account, a Government controlled fund for paying off creditors of bust companies, rather than being sent to them.

MARK BOGARD, managing director of b2, Barclays Bank's "fresh" and "different" financial services subsidiary, is gearing up for a publicity drive. The direct sales company has hired PR firm Charles Barker and is preparing an awesome series of journalist's lunches (burp).

In contrast to the somewhat staid image of the financial services industry and as a result of his busy schedule, Mr Bogard has taken to arriving at these lunches on his 1000cc Thunder Ace motorbike - complete with b2 personalised numberplates.

And he has already arrived at five of these lunches with Di Skidmore, b2 publicity supremo, perched on the pillion.

Ms Skidmore is herself the proud owner of four Triumph motorbikes, but she admits Mr Bogard's Yamaha is "a lot quicker" than any of her vintage British hogs.

The wimps from Charles Barker have refused any lifts on Mr Bogard's bike. Even the prospect of a free lunch has not tempted them.

Ms Skidmore declares firmly that Mr Bogard is "a very safe driver, especially in the busy London traffic".

However, she admits that some of the journalists have "looked a bit aghast" when they have arrived by chopper.

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