People & Business : Behemoths of business put best foot forward in Greece marathon

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The Independent Online
Readers will be delighted to hear that the former director of MI6, the founder of the Independent, the current headmaster of Gordonstoun and the founder of Postern all survived the weekend.

This is quite an achievement, since they, along with 3,000 others, ran the Athens centenary marathon in Greece last weekend, in temperatures of over 80 degrees.

A UK contingent of 100 was organised by John Campbell of Campbell Lutyens, a London-based corporate finance boutique.

Andrew Sealey, a director of Campbell Lutyens, spoke yesterday on a mobile phone from the Manzavino taverna in Athens: "I'm still trying to loosen the joints, and I was one of the slow ones."

Mr Sealey said that the Independent's first editor, Andreas Whittam Smith, had "strode through it very well - he came in at five and a quarter hours".

Mark Piper, the headmaster of Gordonstoun, walked the entire 26 miles dressed in full tweeds, said Mr Sealey, and read from a book of Byron's poems to fellow marathoners. The slowest in a group where 75 were first- time runners was Archie Coulson, founder of Postern, the corporate doctors, who completed the course in seven hours.

The party was packed with British businessmen, including Oliver Stocken, finance director of Barclays Bank, and Bernard Kelly, of Campbell Lutyens, the oldest runner at 66. The British group managed to raise over pounds 400,000 for educational charities, Mr Sealey said.

He added that the runners had to brave "the ghastly, awful smog in Athens. The end of the course was down one lane of a six-lane road. The locals weren't pleased with the traffic jams we were causing, and cursed us as we went by."

Never mind. The evening after the race the party celebrated with a big dinner, with a speech by Sir Colin McColl, 62, former director of MI6, whose own time was five hours 59 minutes. One wag, observing the smog and the way the Greek organisers ran out of water for the sweating runners half-way through the marathon, suggested that Mr Coulson should use his company doctor skills and "sort out Greece".

That sounds like the retsina talking.

Rupert Murdoch's campaign to force Time Warner to make space on its New York City cable system for his fledgling 24-hour Fox News Channel (FNC) is rapidly degenerating into a highly entertaining public slanging match.

On Monday, Mr Murdoch's New York Post devoted its entire second page to remarks made by Ted Turner, whose company is now part of Time, about Mr Murdoch.

"Is Ted Turner veering dangerously towards insanity?" it asked. Yesterday, Time Warner purchased the back page of the New York Times to replay commentaries that have appeared in different US publications about the affair and, in particular, about the efforts of New York's Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, to force Time Warner to distribute FNC.

Under the headline "The Real News on Fox News", Time offers such snippets as: "Giuliani still refuses to recognise the corrupting touch of Murdoch" (New York Daily News); "The appearance of impropriety in this mess is overwhelming" (Business Week); "There is something comic about the Mayor trying to force-feed the public Fox News because it's good for them" (New York Observer); and, from the New York Times: "Mr Murdoch is not some sort of innocent who needs a protector. He has ruthlessly used his news organisations in the United States and overseas to further his political agenda".

With any luck, this row will run and run.

Congratulations to Martin Grant, managing director of the Firkin Brewery, who celebrates opening his 100th real ale pub today.

My best wishes are tempered, however, after reading some rather disturbing sentiments expressed in Firkin's press release on the subject.

Specifically, I had not realised that the pub chain identified so closely with students, that unwashed rabble of malingerers (okay, I was one too, but a long time ago).

The company trills: "Recognised in the industry as the leading student- friendly pub brand, branded merchandise such as sick bags, scratch n' sniff jock straps and giant pub games as Connect Four, Battleships and Ker-Plunk, go a long way in appealing to Firkin's target audience."

Delightful. Now where was that wine bar ....

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