People & Business: Damon Hill races away with Everton's funding

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The Independent Online
Danka, the photocopying business, has just cancelled its sponsorship deal with Everton, and the question is why. Some press reports over the weekend suggested that Danka was less than impressed with Everton's footballing success and their sale of star winger Andrei Kanchelskis to Fiorentina.

A spokesman for Danka has a different explanation: "We signed a four- year deal with Everton in 1995 with an option to break off after two years. The main reason we didn't renew the deal with Everton was that we've just signed a pounds 7m sponsorship with Damon Hill's new Formula One team, TWR Arrows.

"We've been very pleased with Everton over the past two years, but now that we've bought Kodak's global photocopier operation [for $600m last December] we want a more world-wide sponsorship presence."

So it's Damon one, "the Toffees" nil.

Hugh Corbett, the man who built and sold the Slug and Lettuce chain of theme pubs, decided to buy his wife a Valentine's Day gift with a difference. Instead of the usual flowers, Mrs Corbett received a sheep.

Mr Corbett says the original idea was to get her a lamb, but then he went one better and got her a ewe which is pregnant with two lambs. The lambs are due to pop in about two weeks' time.

So how did his wife react to the gift? "About as well as the time I bought her a beehive full of bees. This went down a bit better. What could be more tasty than two Cotswold spring lambs? When they arrive in a fortnight they'll end up on a plate."

Mr Corbett, who is building a "Tup" chain of pubs with a sheep theme, adds: "I suppose I've got an odd sense of humour."

Britannia Life, the mutual life insurance group, has just placed a series of ads in magazines which proclaim: "It will take more than pounds 60m to get this Britannia to float."

The ad goes on to say that while the new Royal yacht may be surrounded by controversy, "at least the future of one Britannia is clear".

Following the demutualisation proposals by Scottish Amicable, not to mention the mad rush to dump mutuality by the bigger building societies, this seems a brave claim by the insurance company. No doubt corporate finance teams in the City are already planning a boarding party to make Britannia's policyholders an offer they can't refuse.

Speaking of hostile bids, Undervalued Assets Trust launched a pounds 47m offer for Pilot Investment Trust on Friday. UAT is part of Colin McLean's stable at Scottish Value Management and is advised by SBC Warburg, while PIT is managed by Rutherford Asset Management and chaired by Sir Peter Michael, the co-founder of Classic FM.

Not everything has gone smoothly for UAT. Its offer consists of seven new UAT shares for every nine shares in PIT. In its announcement to the London Stock Exchange, UAT said its share price on 11 February was 58.5p. In fact it should have read 158.5p - not the way to sway PIT's shareholders.

Congratulations to Jane Ageros, 32, who has been appointed head UK spin doctor at investment banking giant Merrill Lynch for a package rumoured to be well north of pounds 200,000 a year.

Ms Ageros has been with Abbey National for the past eight years, latterly as head of corporate affairs. Although PR people are notoriously shy about their pay levels, I am informed she won't have been on more than a piddling pounds 70,000 at the Abbey.

Abbey's chief executive, Peter Birch, is commendably keen on cost containment, so it's doubtful he tried hard to equal Merrill's wallet-bulging offer. Break out the Bolly!

It has been pointed out to me that Brian Souter, chairman of Stagecoach (right), bears a passing likeness to Bob Mortimer, the shorter one in the comedy duo Reeves & Mortimer (left). In the words of Private Eye, are they by any chance related? Bearing in mind the farce now playing out at South West Trains, the Stagecoach subsidiary which was forced to cancel 39 trains a day this week because of too few drivers, perhaps the two should swap jobs.