People & Business : East End big 'uns play it safe with own airline

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The Independent Online
The Barclay brothers aren't the only fraternal partnership to come out of the East End and make it big in business. The Gold brothers - David and Ralph - have just launched their own executive airline at Biggin Hill, Kent.

The Golds have always liked the former Battle of Britain aerodrome - they owned the Biggin Hill flying club in the 1970s. Both are keen amateur pilots, and David has won the Malta air rally twice.

The launch of Gold Air International brings the estimated assets of the Gold Brothers to pounds 230m. They own over 80 companies. Other interests include part-ownership of Birmingham City Football Club and 50 per cent of Sport newspapers.

The Golds made their first real money in the 1970s by buying and selling a retail property in London's Queensway. A spokeswoman tells me they decided to launch an airline now for two reasons: firstly, they wanted a safe airline they could use themselves around the UK and Europe, not least following the tragic death of Chelsea director Matthew Harding in an air crash.

The Golds also think an airline has great commercial promise - they'll be spending pounds 15m on jets for the company this year alone.

Anna Vinton, co-founder of the Reject Shop chain bought three years ago by Upton & Southern Holdings, is joining WEW Group as a non-executive director.

As such Mrs Vinton is moving into familiar territory - the Reject Shop, as its name suggested, sold cheap and cheerful domestic goods, while WEW stands for the the shop that sells "What Everyone Wants".

WEW's 80 stores in Scotland and the North-east sell discount clothes, and its new management is struggling to improve the group's faltering performance. Mrs Vinton admits: "Its going to be a tough job turning WEW around, but I think its do-able. They have got the right strategy."

In fact Mrs Vinton was attracted to WEW because of the new men at the top - chairman James Millar, formerly head of William Lowe, which sold out to Tesco, and chief executive Richard Boland, ex-head of the Freemans catalogue business. "They both came highly recommended - Lord MacLaurin at Tesco always said what a good business William Lowe was," she says.

While most of the business world is cosying up to the Labour government in waiting, Andersen Consulting is taking a counter-cyclical view. Andersen's current director of research and knowledge management, Patricia Hewitt, is leaving to stand as a Labour candidate in the safe Labour seat of Leicester West, and is being replaced by Stephen Locke - a former private secretary to Nigel Lawson. To be fair, Mr Locke was a civil servant when he served Lord Blaby - he worked in the Treasury from 1976 to 1982.

Since then Mr Locke has worked for the Consumers Association. Latterly he has been the CA's head of research and policy.

As such he should have the right experience to run Andersen's research and knowledge management arm. Look out for Andersen's next project - " best-value spin-drier."

Wickes, the troubled DIY chain, has appointed its third firm of PR spin doctors in just over a year. Wickes parted company with Brunswick in favour of Dewe Rogerson last June when "accounting irregularities" were discovered at the DIY chain. Dewe only agreed to stay on until the rescue rights issue was out of the way, since they already act for Wickes' rivals Boots, owner of Do It All.

City PR people rely heavily on lunches to communicate with journalists (he wrote, sipping his mineral water), which should be good news for London restaurants like Rowley's, the Jermyn Street eaterie.

It is seeking to raise pounds 800,000 via the Enterprise Investment Scheme. Petrol station king Richard Guess, joint chairman and managing director, and joint chairman Christopher Burnett, a former merchant seaman, want the money to open further restaurants along Rowley's "steak and chips" lines. They say they may even start a restaurant outside London if the opportunity offers.