People & Business: Race for the euro gets under way with Tony Bullimore on board

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The Independent Online
The euro may not yet be linked in British thinking with its sporting heroes, but in Cherbourg this Sunday one of them, the yachtsman Tony Bullimore, will be flying its flag as he takes to the sea again.

Made famous by being rescued from the icy southern ocean in January, Mr Bullimore is taking part in the Round Europe race. Another competitor from the race in which Mr Bullimore's yacht capsized, Pete Goss, was also supposed to do his bit for the euro by teaming up with the man he rescued, Raphael Dinelli.

But Mr Goss is deep in negotiations for a book contract which could secure the family fortunes he put on the line to compete in that Vendee Globe single-handed race.

So Mr Bullimore finds himself part of European Commissioner Yves-Thibault de Silguy's mission to promote the slogan: "The euro - a currency for Europe."

The race from Cherbourg to Rotterdam, Kiel, Arendal in Norway, Oslo and Stockholm is, says Mr de Silguy, a "dynamic and intelligent initiative" which will "heighten the awareness of the citizens of Europe to the birth of the euro".

Here is a rich vein to be mined if a queue of cricketers, footballers, even snooker and darts players, forms outside his Brussels door as he adds: "At the same time as taking part in a great sporting event, the public will be able to obtain concrete information about the future single currency." As to discovering the euro through sport, why not?

You know who your friends are in the utility business. Ask Ken Harvey, the recently appointed chairman of South West Water who made his fame by leaving Norweb with almost pounds 2m after the takeover by North West Water which led to the formation of United Utilities. Mr Harvey lost no time yesterday to wax lyrical about a Far Eastern misfortune suffered by his former employer.

Casting a dubious eye on North West's disastrous foray into the international water construction business (provisions of pounds 83m on one contract in Bangkok), he said: "We decided long ago that the mega international projects far away from home are not suitable for a company our size" ... contrasting North West Water's experience and the now legendary profitability of South West Water's non-regulated businesses.

Luckily, journalists did not have to waste time putting Mr Harvey's theory to the test. For only a few minutes after he had put the boot in at a press conference at the Whitbread Brewery in the City, it was United's turn to entertain the press pack a few yards down the road. United's directors, unsurprisingly, responded to questions about money lost down the Bangkok drain with a somewhat muted "disappointing".

One of the stalwarts of financial public relations, Lowe Bell Financial's senior director, "Jem" Miller, has written to clients advising them he is retiring from the front line at the end of the year, when he reaches the ripe old age (for spin doctors) of 63. Increasing difficulty making his fighting weight is thought to have played a part in his decision.

Recipients of the news include Highland Distilleries and Tate & Lyle, clients he has worked with for 20 years.

There is still a trace of Zimbabwean in his accent, and he trod the boards as a professional actor in Darkest Africa, playing among other parts Hotspur in Henry IV Part 1 at Kitwe on the Copper Belt. But, as Michael Caine might say, "not a lot of people know that".

He started work at Streets in 1972 when it had no clients at all, and later built his own business, which he sold to the American specialists in consumer PR Burson Marsteller a decade ago, before moving on to Lowe Bell in 1988.

He will not be entirely lost to Fleet Street in general or El Vino's, and he will apparently consider consultancy work. He is a Keeper of the Quaich, a society that is to Scotch whisky what the Chevaliers de Tastevin is to Burgundy. For reasons best known to himself he is an honorary Lieutenant- colonel of the Alabama State Militia, although it is unlikely he has seen active service, and he could certainly earn a fee as a doppelganger for Helmut Kohl, the redoubtable German Chancellor, although Mr Miller himself insists he has more hair than Mr Kohl.

And talking of spin doctors we hear that Damian McCrystal, the former City hack, is looking so respectable these days that he is being mistaken for one of Andrew Regan's lawyers rather than what he really is, the failed Co-op bidder's PR man. Not that he will be fulfilling that function for much longer. With the Co-op bid sunk in a welter of litigation, Mr McCrystal's services will no longer be required. He is due to leave in July but is tight-lipped about his next move. He denies, however, that he is seeking a return to journalism. "I hear that rumour but it's not true." Perhaps he could get a job at the Co-op.