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CABOUCHON, the costume jewellery operation founded by Petra Doring, has gone belly up with debts of around pounds 7m.

Scott Barnes of Grant Thornton was sent in yesterday morning as a receiver by Cabouchon's main creditor, Midland Bank. Mr Barnes, speaking from the bust company's head office in Brentford, Middlesex, said: "Everything's a bit sketchy at the moment."

"We think the business had a turnover of around pounds 25m and made losses over the last two years totalling around pounds 4m. Apparently, Petra Doring has sent out a letter saying some of the business has been sold. We're trying to get to the bottom of this, and we will be meeting with her first thing tomorrow morning."

Ms Doring was working last week to merge the struggling operation which she founded seven years ago with Zepter International, a cosmetics and kitchenware group based in Monaco.

This leaves Mr Barnes with the tricky task of finding out which of the UK company's 50-odd staff and various remaining assets still belong to Cabouchon, and which to Zepter. There are also several thousand consultants in the UK who flog the trinkets direct to the public. To complicate the picture, Cabouchon's holding company is based in the Netherlands and there are other trading arms in Japan, the US, France and Germany.

The unravelling of Cabouchon should be a lively story.

WELCOME back, Nazmu Virani. The property tycoon and former boss of Control Securities was, lest we forget, sentenced to two and a half years in jail in 1994 when he was convicted of several charges of false accounting.

Yesterday he was celebrating a pounds 1.625m deal by his new company Cygnet Properties & Leisure, which has bought a 250,000 square foot hotel and office complex in Leicester.

Mr Virani, an old pal of Gerald Ronson, commented: "This is a major step forward in building the leisure division of Cygnet. The complex will be refurbished and comprise a 220 bedroom hotel and 130,000 square feet of exhibition and conference facilities and serviced office suites."

Bravo. Good to see that our much maligned penal system can rehabilitate offenders so effectively.

TO THE GUS egm at the Chartered Insurance Institute yesterday for the vote on GUS's bid for Argos. A keen BBC camera crew is pouncing on people entering the building and asking them whether they will be voting in favour of the bid.

The first likely looking man they assail is asked; "Are you a shareholder?"

He replies: "Yes, I am."

BBC: "Will you be voting in favour of the bid?"

Man: "Yes. Then I would say that wouldn't I, because I'm the chairman."

And with that Lord Wolfson of Sunningdale, chairman of GUS, swept into the meeting.

PRICE WATERHOUSE has appointed two new people to lead the team which organises the Academy Awards ballot for the Oscars.

PW has been running the highly sensitive ballot for the last 70 years, and the latest partners to head up the team are Greg Garrison, 44, senior partner of the American practice, and his colleague Liza Pierozzi, 36.

So does this make Pierozzi and Garrison the Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise of the accountancy world? A PW spokeswoman replies: "Why not? They are, after all, going to be dressed exclusively by Calvin Klein."

I hope Mr Klein doesn't forget the trademark ball point pens in the breast pocket.

JOLLY well done Sir Nigel Rudd, hockey-playing chairman of Williams Holdings, who has just rescued the Buxton Festival this year after the Arts Council cut off funding for the bash. Williams, which is based in Derbyshire, is stumping up pounds 50,000 to help cover the lease of the nearby Opera House, as well as running costs for Mozart's delightful opera La finta semplice.

Sir Nigel, a bit of an opera buff himself, will no doubt be going along to hear international baritone Thomas Allen star in the opera. Mr Allen sprang to fame in the chart-topping BBC version of Lou Reed's "Just a Perfect Day", you may or may not recall.

LORD DONOUGHUE, former bag carrier for the late Robert Maxwell and currently Under Secretary State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, popped up at the All Bar One in Leicester Square in London one morning this week to urge people to go work in pubs.

The British Institute of Inn Keeping has launched a campaign called "Leisure Careers in the UK", using pounds 210,000 of government grant money, to highlight the attractions of serving behind a bar.

Lord Donoughue was delighted at the enthusiasm shown by the campaigners. "It's nice to see this Government cash so welcome," he said.

"My department is responsible for giving farmers loads of money, pounds 20bn since 1990, and they're still in revolt."