People and business: St Ives founder sells up for pounds 24m

ROBERT GAVRON, the man who formed the St Ives printing company in 1964 and retired as chairman in 1993, has finally cut his last remaining ties with the company which made his fortune and is selling most of his shares.

The Guardian Media Group, where Mr Gavron is non-executive chairman, will no doubt regard this development with some concern, since it will give him even more time to meddle in their affairs. Mr Gavron has won an unenviable reputation there as a bit of a busybody.

He has been a non-executive director of St Ives for the last five years. Yesterday he told the board he intended to sell 4.6 million shares of his 6.6 million stake in St Ives. The sale should garner around pounds 24m at yesterday's closing price of 519.5p, down 17p on the day. The shares are being placed in the market.

Mr Gavron says he intends to keep the rest of the shares "for the foreseeable future.

LAWRENCE URQUHART, former boss of Burmah Castrol and currently deputy chairman of BAA, has been named as Sir Brian Smith's successor as chairman of the airports group.

Marcus Agius, the evergreen vice-chairman of Lazard Brothers and a non- executive director at BAA, will become deputy chairman. Stepping into his shoes will be Christopher Fay, chairman and chief executive of Shell UK, who joins as a non-executive director.

I THOUGHT Malcolm Williamson was supposed to be "retiring" from Standard Chartered when he was replaced as chief executive by Rana Talwar a fortnight ago.

Now our Malcolm, a sprightly 60, has popped up as chief executive officer of Visa International, the global payments system with 21,000 member financial institutions and a turnover of $1 trillion. Hardly a part-time retirement job, to be fitted in between golf and tending the roses.

Mr Williamson was chosen by his old mate Peter Ellwood, chairman of the Visa International board of directors, who led the selection committee for the new CEO. Both men spent most of their early careers with Barclays Bank, which they joined over 25 years ago. Mr Williamson was at Barclays until 1985, and Mr Ellwood, now chief executive at Lloyds Bank, left Barclays four years later.

ALLAN LEIGHTON, chief executive at Asda, was limping slightly yesterday, having picked up a slight hamstring strain in the latest crunch Asda five-a-side footie match on Monday night.

Mr Leighton's "Asda House" team from head office trounced the Gravesend store 28-8 in a gruelling 70-minute fixture in Leeds. The Tony Adams- style Mr Leighton, normally known for his no-nonsense tackling, netted five goals. That was nothing next to "inspirational midfielder" Archie Norman, the chairman, who demonstrated his silky skills with a startling 10 goals.

A jubilant Mr Leighton observed: "They came up to give us a good kicking but we gave them one instead." Perhaps Glenn Hoddle should be informed.

STILL ON Asda, the supermarket chain has set up a "rent-a-hunk" scheme for World Cup widows, titled "World Cup Hunks"

It's aimed at female customers who have been deserted by their sofa- bound husbands. Customers can ring up and be partnered with a muscle-bound Adonis for the weekly grocery run.

Asda has hired rugby players, firemen and other well-built blokes uninterested in footie to dress down in "ripped T-shirts or skimpy vests," it says here.

A company spokesman says: "It's proved quite popular. We haven't had any complaints from irate hubbies yet."

STAND BY for the inauguration ceremony for the European Central Bank on 30 June in Frankfurt. There will be a stellar audience for the bash, including Willem F Duisenberg, President of the new bank.

Lucky attendees will hear addresses by Tony Blair in his role as President of the European Council, plus Jacques Santer, President of the European Commission and Helmut Kohl, Chancellor of Germany, to name but a few.

They will also thrill to the entertainment being laid on: The Royal Dutch Male Voice Choir, plus Riverdance performed by an Irish Dance Ensemble.

Wake me up when its over.

BIOCOMPATIBLES International has appointed Crispin Simon as chief executive officer, to fill the hole left by Alistair Taylor, who left in February. Mr Simon has held senior posts at Smith & Nephew, Rexam and McKinsey & Company.

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