Portfolio plans put paid to a peaceful retirement

Jonathan Fry has set about preparing for his retirement as chief executive of Burmah Castrol next year with a passion, yesterday making pounds 435,000 by selling shares in the oil company, at the same time adding the chairmanship of the Harrisons & Crosfield mini congolmerate to his growing portfolio of non-executive directorships.

Mr Fry sold shares acquired through the group's executive share option scheme. He also took on another directorship, while already being chairman of Christian Salvesen, the logisitics group, and deputy chairman of Northern Foods. Mr Fry admitted he will not have much time for his hobbies as most people when they retire. "I'd love to have more time for my roses," he said. But switching off from business is proving difficult.

He has been with Burmah since 1978, when its shares were changing hands at just 33p, showing "how little credibility the company had with the market. Now they're worth pounds 10.70." He hopes to turn his experience to good stead at Harrisons, which has some good components but has failed to convince the market of its overall worth, he says.

Mr Fry actually started off as a management consultant with McKinsey in the 1966s, which was rather like "having a business school education at someone else's expense." He also thinks consultants did so well then because British management was pretty poor.

There are now family connections with the City, as well as work; Mr Fry has a formidable quartet of daughters, two of whom work in the Square Mile - Lucy at the blue-blooded brokers Cazenove, and Camilla at Hoare Govett.

Meanwhile, the ever-busy Mr Fry will have to continue to neglect his garden, and his favourite hobby, cricket. He is convinced that English cricket can recover from its present slump, and that Lord MacLaurin's reforms will pay off: "If anyone can do it, Iain can."

The gigantic McGraw Hill publishing group which owns Standard & Poors and Business Week magazine among many other things, has just appointed John D Negroponte as an executive vice president of its Global Markets division. Mr Negroponte has to have one of the most intriguing CVs I've seen for some time. His 37-year career with the US State Department included a stint in Saigon during the Vietnam war. He was a member of the delegation to the Paris Peace Talks on Vietnam in 1968-9. He has also advised a series of US presidents on security issues as well as being Ambassador to Honduras, Mexico and the Philippines.

He speaks French, Spanish, Greek and Vietnamese, in case you were wondering. Harold McGraw III, the company's President, says: "With John on our team, we can take advantage of a wealth of new oppotrunites. In particular, we are targeting Asia and Latin America as key markets." They'll never stand a chance.

Gerry Acher, bumptious head of audit at KPMG, is currently in China, readying himself for the Peking-Paris Rally which starts on Saturday. Since the vintage car venture via the Himalayas is due to last about six weeks, the entire audit world is in limbo, insiders tell me. Our Gerry is driving a 1932 1.5 litre "Baby" Aston Martin, a tiny two-seater convertible. He has been warned by the organisers that his car only has a 20 per cent chance of completing the rally. Undaunted, Gerry has this week raised his target for the amount he intends to raise for charity, from pounds 100,000 to a cool quarter of a million.

Nigel Challis, another KPMG inmate, is also taking part - in a somewhat sturdier 1955 Land-Rover. So even if Gerry's Baby blows up he'll be able to hitch a ride home.

Gerry is taking with him a satellite hand phone, keyboard and digital camera with which he will report his progress daily to the KPMG web site, so that stunned bean counters will be able to follow his progress through the tundra back to civilisation.

A generational shift is going on at Peter Black Holdings, the fully listed pounds 200m company which makes and markets household goods such as healthcare, beauty and fashion products. Chairman Gordon Black says that Dick Leivers will be 60 in November 1998, when he will retire as chief executive and become a non-executive director. Stephen Lister, the current group finance director, will succeed Dick as chief executive. Neil Yewdall, who has been with the group for 13 years, will be the next group finance director. "These early announcements will facilitate a smooth transition," Mr Black said.

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