Retuning just not worth the risk

Business & People
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The Independent Online
That naughty Ward Thomas, chairman of Yorkshire-Tyne Tees, is at it again. The story so far: Mr Thomas wrote to nascent rival Channel 5 insisting that when their retuners turned up to his house, that they should do the job in his drive as they constituted a security risk.

He attached a form for Channel 5 to sign, indemnifying him against any possible damage. Channel 5 drafted a reply, refusing to sign his form and seeking to reassure him of the high quality of its retuners. A copy of the draft fell into my hands and was quoted in last week's column.

Now Mr Thomas writes to us, saying that he has not received Channel 5's letter, but adding: "It does seem extraordinary to me that they are not prepared to sign a document drawn up by a respected firm of lawyers [Goodman Derrick] to protect my reasonable interests.

"That refusal makes me all the more concerned for the security of my home and family.

"Having nothing of material value in the house, I have no great fear of Greg Dyke's 'burglars', but I do value dearly my wife and young son and have no wish to expose them to the risk of contact with ..."

And here we have to leave Mr Thomas's letter, dear reader, as he casts aspersions that a family newspaper such as this could not possibly repeat. He concludes that Channel 5 is a programme service "which we can well do without". Perhaps they could turn this row into a television series.

Hugh "Sooty" Corbett, the man who built and then sold the Slug & Lettuce and Harvey Floorbanger's pub chains, is about to open a boozer just down the road from the Bank of England, called the City Tup.

Mr Corbett says he always gets apprehensive before he opens a new pub. "It's rather like giving birth, perhaps not as messy."

He has bought a bar in Gresham Street formerly known as Shorts and is ploughing pounds 250,000 of his own money into sprucing it up for a November opening.

Like many institutions, Mr Corbett finds City rents "mind blowing". Before a pint is pulled, he has to deal with rent of pounds 116,000 a year, rates of pounds 37,000 and an additional management fee.

Despite the expenses, Mr Corbett remains a sole trader. He may seek to raise capital next spring through an AIM listing or private shareholders, but he remains bemused by the ways of the City.

"People see pubs as a good wheeze and then float them on a p/e of 198 million. I know that if a pub makes a profit of pounds 150,000 then it's worth roughly four to five times that. A lot of pub chains trade on a p/e of 30. It baffles me."

Mr Corbett fears that p/es force chains to expand simply to increase earnings, whereas he wants to limit the Tup chain to around 8 at most. "I'm not about to create an empire," he says. So Bass is safe for the moment.

Sir Alastair Morton was in an end-of-term mood yesterday as he presented his last press presentation for Eurotunnel, nine-and-a-half years after becoming co-chairman of the project.

Sir Alastair will retire at the end of October and then go on a long holiday - "at least six months, to Costa Rica or the South Pacific," he says. Bob Malpas replaces Sir Alastair as chairman

Sir Alastair won't be drawn on a new job after his hols. Sources stress he is only 58, and he has "one more big industrial job in him".