Sabotage suspected as Maples' airship promotion is deflated

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Grahame Winter, managing director of the furniture retailer Maples, has been having a spot of bother with promotional airships. A key part of Maples' development strategy is to open larger out-of-town stores. And when the company opened its branch in Reading it hired an advertising blimp to help fly the flag, so to speak.

Everything was going very well and Mr Winter was very pleased with the publicity. But then Mr Winter received a telephone call informing him that someone had shot the thing down. To make matters worse, the blimp did not simply plummet to earth but started to drift.

With Heathrow Airport only a few miles down the M4 corridor, the airship was starting to look like serious aviation hazard. Air traffic control had to be alerted until the blimp was safely grounded. Mr Winter is not a happy man. "I suspect the work of a competitor," he says.

Richard Hyman, the laid-back head of retail consultants Verdict Research, stunned the sector yesterday when he made his first public appearance since shaving off his beard.

The retail guru unveiled his new look at Verdict's conference, "The Price of Quality", held at London's Hilton hotel. Asked what made him take to the razor, Mr Hyman admitted that the decision to end 25 years of facial hair was not his own. His girlfriend made him do it.

Though he looks years younger, Mr Hyman is slightly concerned that friends, clients and even his own children no longer recognise him. "I feel weird," he said.

City analysts pondering rumours of a merger between beleaguered food retailers Kwik Save and Iceland have wasted little time dreaming up a name for the notional new company: Kwiksand.

A contrite media baron? It can happen. Yesterday none other than Ted Turner apologised to the Anti-Defamation League for comparing Rupert Murdoch to the "late Fuhrer". Mr Turner, whose company, Turner Broadcasting System, is being ingested by Time Warner in a $6.5bn deal, made the remark to reporters in New York last week.

In his letter to the ADL, he said that his Fuhrer analogy was inapt and "trivialised a profound historical tragedy". The comment, he said, was "offensive" and "referred only to the way Hitler managed the news in Germany".

Roger Cork, son of the late insolvency guru Sir Kenneth Cork, has been confirmed as the new Lord Mayor of London. He will be admitted to office on 8 November.

Mr Cork is a senior partner at Moore Stephens, where he is head of the firm's corporate recovery and insolvency practice. The theme of his year in office will be "Making Britain Even Greater".

"I think Britain needs to get back its faith in itself," he says. "I think people who work in the City feel that it is the best place to work and the premier financial centre but I'm not sure people outside London feel that. We want to put the pride back in being British."

Mr Cork will be promoting both London and UK plc on visits to Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan and India next year.

Sir Matthew Goodwin, the former chairman of plant hire group Hewden Stuart, astonished his former colleagues when he appeared in the office with a chainsaw. Workers feared it was part of a brutal new approach to corporate downsizing or that the Tory party bigwig had alighted on a fresh method of chivvying along party donations.

In the end it proved to be no Glasgow chainsaw massacre. Sir Matthew is part of a project to reforest Scotland and was presumably planning a spot of thinning.

The chainsaw adds to an already impressive array of weaponry with which Sir Matthew is regularly seen. He also steps out on the Lanarkshire hills armed with a Canadian spear, which is used in the planting of trees.

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