Sir Rocco Forte survives a close encounter of the journalist kind

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Sir Rocco Forte has his offices in the same building as PR company Brunswick. Yesterday, a horde of journalists taking the lift to Brunswick's fifth-floor office to hear United Biscuit's presentation were delighted when Sir Rocco got into their lift.

The lifts are not large in the building in Lincoln's Inn Fields, London, and the hotelier was literally nose-to-nose with the writers.

The journalists, delighted at their opportunity for an impromptu question session, asked Sir Rocco what he thought about the Thistle Hotels float, the Granada deal and much else besides.

A tanned, relaxed Sir Rocco said he had been following the Thistle deal with interest in the papers, but just then the lift doors opened for the conference.

Little did United Biscuits realise that it risked a mass defection from its presentation, as many journalists wanted to hear more from Sir Rocco. Perhaps Brunswick should move to a new building, in order to avoid the risk of being upstaged in future.

John Towers, who resigned as chief executive of Rover because of unhappiness with new owner BMW, has just joined two boards; that of B Elliott, the engineering company, and the investment advisory board of Hambro European Ventures.

More press conference shenanigans. Chris Webb, head press officer at Ofgas, turned up at British Gas's swish results conference at the QEII Centre in Westminster yesterday, to the consternation of the hosts. Ofgas isn't exactly flavour of the month with British Gas and one senior executive blurted out: "What the hell is he doing here?" As the British Gas hordes muttered indignantly about the interloper, it transpired that some underling had invited Mr Webb. No doubt memos will be flying today.

Andrew Knight, the man who outraged Conrad Black when he moved from the Telegraph group to Rupert Murdoch's rival empire, has picked up a non- executive directorship at Home Counties Newspaper Holdings.

HCNH publishes free newspapers. Last month Emap sold its 24.5 per cent stake in HCNH to another company of which Mr Knight is a non-exec, Rothschild Investment Trust Capital Partners (RITCP).

A fellow-RITCP director, Duncan Budge, has also joined the HCNH board.

RITCP has assured the newspaper group that it wants to "work closely together as partners". Mr Knight was unavailable for comment yesterday - he was in Yorkshire attending his mother's birthday party.

Sir Derek Birkin is standing down as chairman of RTZ at the end of the year, but he isn't looking for any other big companies to run. Yesterday Mr Birkin insisted he "wants to be nearer the front line in a smaller company, nothing to do with mining, but still industrial". Any offers?

MSL, the recruitment consultant that selected the first British astronaut, Helen Sharman, has just issued its pathfinder prospectus for an AIM listing. Garry Long, chairman of MSL, bought the company out of Saatchi & Saatchi four years ago, and is looking to float it for pounds 7.5m. Whether MSL achieves lift-off or gets lost in space remains to be seen.

The Office of Fair Trading has refused a consumer credit licence to a company because the public confuses the offending firm with... the Office of Fair Trading.

The OFT has ruled that the name of the firm, Fair Trades, has "misled consumers into confusing it with the Office of Fair Trading".

Fair Trades Limited, of 6a The Quadrant, Hoylake, Wirral, was first refused a consumer credit licence in July 1992 when the OFT's officer "concluded that the trading style of Fair Trades Limited is misleading and/or otherwise undesirable" within the meaning of the Act.

Trading names used by the company include Fair Trades Advisory Bureau, Fair Trades Organisation, Fair Trades Better Business Guide/Bureau, and Fair Trades. It's a fair cop.

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