People & Business: Edmonds teams up with Toad to take on Le Mans

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The Independent Online
If I were broadcaster and businessman Noel Edmonds and close confidant of Mr Blobby, I would not team up with a company called Toad to sponsor a car in the Le Mans 24-hour race this weekend. Gentle readers will remember that Mr Toad, one of the creatures in Kenneth Graham's Wind in the Willows, was the world's worst driver, and ended up wrecking his motor and getting 15 years for dangerous driving and cheeking a policeman.

But I am no Noel Edmonds, owner of Unique Group and its offshoot Unique Sport, or even Chris Evans, the boss of Toad, a specialist manufacturer of car security devices based on the outskirts of Cambridge.

And they have teamed up to form a mutual admiration society and sponsor the Panoz GTR, affectionately known to them as the Batmobile, an all-new British-designed and built racing car which recently achieved its maiden victory in the US in only its third race.

They have recruited David Price Racing, a previous winner of Le Mans, and James Weaver, the current world sportscar champion, Andy Wallace, a former Le Mans winner, and Formula One drivers David Brabham and Percy McCarthy. With British sport on its current roll, they may well win.

Followers of Murphy's Law will know that Margaret Beckett is bound to make the long-awaited ruling on Bass's bid for Carlsberg-Tetley this afternoon when every brewery analyst in the City with a widget in his beer can will be attending the Stella Artois tennis tournament at the Queen's Club. And for good measure Bernard Arnault, the boss of LVMH, will be launching his challenge to the proposed merger of Guinness and Grand Metropolitan.

Conspiracy theorists will note that the tournament is sponsored by Whitbread, just about the only major brewer not involved in either issue.

Spare a thought this weekend for the 20 teams of hill-walkers taking part in the 24 Peaks Challenge sponsored by Scottish & Newcastle. They plan to climb the 24 peaks over 2,400 feet in the Lake District, a total of 33 miles overland and 13,000 feet of climbing, in two 12-hour sessions. The winner is the team which raises the most money.

S&N's team is led by Chris Ripper, director of human resources. The sales directors of Mars have formed their own team and plan to supply the entire expedition with their staple product, and the appropriately named Alan Cumberland, the property director of Inntrepreneur, is taking part in the directors' challenge which plans to rendezvous with the teams on top of Helvellyn. I hope somebody is minding the shop.

Hidden away on the share registers of the Internet Music Shop is Gretel Barham, who, as you all must know, is Kerry Packer's daughter.

The chairman David Windsor-Clive's father is the Earl of Plymouth and the marketing director, David Codrington, is a descendant of the family, one side of which sired Admiral Codrington, who sank the Turks at Navarino, while another made a fortune in the slave trade which a successor used to endow a library at All Souls, Oxford, and various public works in Antigua.

Other investors include David Lowe, chairman of Southampton Holdings, Mark Foster-Brown, a director of DMG, and ING Baring's David Straker-Smith.

All right, all right, I hear you cry. What does the company do? It is offering a vast range of music and video through the Internet, that's what.

It has a database of 70,000 CDs and 24,000 videos and if you are on the net it can bring them to your door at 20p to 50p above the retail price with none of the hassle of personal shopping.

The issue was 3.5 times oversubscribed and dealings on Ofex start on Monday.

If I were Brian Davis, the earnest-minded boss of Nationwide, the world's biggest remaining building society, which has already spent pounds 1m fending off the unwelcome attentions of a crew of rascally carpetbaggers, I might be investing in a submarine.

The carpetbaggers have booked a boat, the Golden Hind, for a free floating party starting at London Bridge at 9 tonight.

It is meant to demonstrate their ability to run the proverbial piss-up. It is a pity the phone number they advertise for details is unobtainable.

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