People & Business

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Michael Turl, founder and managing director of Mears group, which provides building services to local authorities, unexpectedly resigned yesterday amid rumours of a boardroom bust-up.

The executive chairman Bob Holt insists relations between the two are cordial and Mr Turl merely wanted to spend more time at his house in Spain. But informed sources say the two differed in their responses to approaches from potential predators. While Mr Turl wanted to sell out, Mr Holt preferred to keep the company independent, according to the rumours.

Among the companies who admit to having held talks with Mears are the Dean Group, run by the acquisitive Stephen Dean.

Mr Holt admits talks with undisclosed parties are still ongoing, while Mr Turl is off to spend the proceeds of the 9,200,000 shares in Mears he sold yesterday, trousering well over pounds 900,000. Mr Turl has signed a no-competition agreement lasting two years with Mears, and will not be receiving any compensation from the company.

Lord Stevens, still chairman of United News & Media but strictly in a junior role to Lord Hollick, chief executive, has snapped up the chairmanship of the Personal Number company, a telecoms group floated on AIM last year which already has a profit warning under its belt.

The new non-executive chairman replaces John Peett, a former member of Vodafone's board, who has left to become an executive consultant to a US company, Personal Number said. Mr Peett remains a non-executive director.

The Personal Number Co, based in Wiltshire, offers customers their own personal telephone numbers which can be redirected to whatever phones or faxes they choose.

On his appointment, Lord Stevens bought 250,000 shares in the company from the chief executive, Geremy Thomas, at 40p per share, bringing his holding up to 288,000 shares, or 1.86 per cent, and cutting Mr Thomas's holding to 4.0 million shares or 25.8 per cent. The shares rose 3p yesterday to 42p.

Peter Hollins took the helm at British Energy yesterday - and the shares promptly fell 22p to 438p. The new chief executive was not to blame, however. That responsibility lies with Salomons, who issued a sell note on the company, inking in a target of 429p.

Mr Hollins, 50, was previously a director of EVC, Europe's leading PVC producer. Welcome to the wonderful world of nuclear energy.

Andy Gray, the former Aston Villa, Everton, Rangers and Scotland striker, has signed up to help launch the first daily internet newspaper devoted to football.

Direct Network Publishing is set to raise pounds 2m on Ofex next week and launch "Football 365" later in the month. Daniel Thompson, formerly of Time Warner and chief executive of Direct Network, says subscribers will receive a personalised service concentrating on the club and country of their choice.

"There's a huge appetite for football news, and we're giving it to people in a format they love - the PC," says Mr Thompson.

The company will make money through advertising, and will source its news through in-house journalists, including Danny Kelly, who currently presents Under the Moon on Channel Four. It will also glean information from the Press Association, the Web and readers themselves.

If Football 365 works as anticipated, Mr Thompson aims to launch other titles around what he calls "passion centres" such as Music 365 and Money 365. Other directors of the company include Simon Morris, a former MD of Ginger Productions, the company founded by DJ Chris Evans, and Nick Alexander, chief executive of Pearson New Entertainment.

Chris Hughes, a senior corporate recovery partner with Coopers & Lybrand, took time off from preparing for his firm's impending merger with Price Waterhouse to reminisce yesterday about about one of the most gripping public speakers he had ever heard - the late Enoch Powell.

In the early 1980s, Walther Goldsmith, the then chairman of the Institute of Directors (IoD), decided the IoD needed a City branch and asked Sir Kenneth Cork, the doyen of insolvency practitioners, to set it up. Sir Kenneth, a founding partner in Cork Gully, which has since been subsumed into Coopers & Lybrand, then decided the branch would need an annual conference, and it was at one of the first of such occasions that Mr Powell held Mr Hughes spellbound.

Other speakers Mr Hughes remembers from those days were Ian Hay Davision and Denis, now Lord, Healey - who asked for his fee in a brown paper envelope.