Rector makes small beer of ailing churches

City Diary

Scottish & Newcastle and Bass had better watch out. A Sussex rector has floated his own brewery and he's got God on his side. Not that the Reverend Godfrey Broster of Plumpton Green has any very ambitious plans for expansion or acquisitions.

He has launched Rectory Ales to help cover the horrendous repair bill for the three churches in his parish - one Saxon, one 12th century and one 19th century. After all, he says, the main brewers before the Reformation in the 16th century were the monasteries.

Rather than pass the begging bowl around once again he has rounded up his parish flock and offered them 1,500 shares in Rectory Ales at pounds 2 each, with a minimum subscription of pounds 100 and a limit of pounds 200.

"It's been over-subscribed," Mr Broster says proudly. "I got the idea from a prospectus for a flotation which I invested in myself."

He reckons brewing two or three barrels of traditional ales a week could generate profits of pounds 1,000 in the first year. How about the dividend policy? "I hope to pay a dividend - I haven't said I won't - it all depends on trading. We'll have to wait and see."

Local pubs have agreed to take the strong Rector's Revenge (abv 5.4), Rector's Pleasure (abv 3.8) and Parson's Porter (abv 3.6). Any plans for lager? "Oh no, that needs cooling apparatus - you'd really have to go big for that. I do brew the odd stout on request, though." And the flotation's been done without without paying a penny in advisers' fees. A miracle.

A secondee from the Japanese version of the DTI, Miti, will soon be helping UK firms to develop more business - with Japan. Hideo Suzuki has started a two-year secondment to the DTI. Based in the DTI's automotive directorate, he will work closely with the UK car industry to help build relationships with Japan and increase trade in the automotive sector - one of the DTI's target areas under the Action Japan campaign. No doubt Mr Suzuki will help to rev up the motor sector.

The Dispatches programme on Channel 4 tonight puts the boot into "the lucrative world of the liquidators - asking why hundreds of firms have been closed down, some perhaps unnecessarily - and exposing sharp practice among some smaller practitioners who engage in improper financial manoeuvring".

All fair enough, I suppose, but it does seem to be kicking a sector when it's down. The senior partner at one of the biggest insolvency firms told me gloomily on Monday that "the trend for company collapses in the UK is still down. It probably won't go up again until 1998. We're having to lay people off." Poor things.

What is it with the Bulgarian football team? Not their defeat last night at the hands of the French in Euro96, but their constant switching of hotels in the North-east, to local chagrin. First Scarborough council forked out pounds 20,000 to put them up at a hotel, only for Hristo Stoitchkov to decide it was boring.

The Bulgarians then booked rooms in the Swallow, Stockton-on-Tees, which would have meant the Romanian team moving out on the double. Just as the Darlington council was crowing about this coup, Stoitchkov whipped his team off instead to the Holiday Inn in Seaton Burn, just six miles from Newcastle, where they were playing.

Cue outrage from Darlington. "What kind of hotels are they used to in Bulgaria anyway?" pondered one observer.

Just when Will Hutton and his ideas on the "stakeholder economy" seem to be everywhere, here comes a bunch of businesmen who have seen the light. The likes of Martin Sorrell of WPP Group and Stuart Hampson, chairman of John Lewis, have signed up to help found the the Centre for Tomorrow's Company, a think-tank devoted to reforming British business. An inquiry by the Royal Society for the encouragement of the Arts, Manufacture and Commerce (RSA) forms the basis for the group.

The report advocates the Hutton-ish "inclusive approach". This is pretty touchy-feely stuff for hard-headed businessmen. "Until we free ourselves from adversarialism in business relationships, UK supply chains will continue to underperform." No more price wars or contested bids, then?

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