Slater invests in tennis hopeful

City Diary
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The Independent Online
Tim Henman is the latest in a long line of British hopefuls at Wimbledon. What many people may not realise is that he was sponsored at school by none other than Jim Slater, the one-time minus millionaire. "Nine years ago I got fed up with watching British tennis players on TV - none of them ever got into the eight finals, let alone the quarter finals," says Mr Slater.

He set up a scheme with former tennis ace David Lloyd to sponsor a series of school boys, under which 11 boys a year would have their fees at Reeds School in Surrey paid for by Mr Slater. Each day the boys would travel to Mr Lloyd's tennis centre nearby and be coached on an individual basis.

Tim Henman was one of the early beneficiaries. Mr Slater says he startered similar sponsorships for British chess players. "We used to have no grand masters, now we have 20." Is he planning to help any other sports? "I might do - I'll have to see which ones are limping."

Picture the scene: The board of Contessa, the lady's underwear retailer owned by Facia, is in the process of being sold by Facia's receivers to Chancerealm, the vehicle that bought Rymans from the receivers of Pentos.

Dick Towner, a distinguished company lawyer who has recently retired as senior partner of City solicitors Richards Butler, is amongst those at the meeting to seal the deal. As the grey-haired Mr Towner, a non- executive director of Chancerealm, raises a query about a clause in the contract, a young lawyer from Nabarro Nathanson who quite clearly doesn't know him, turns to him and says: "Now look, you don't worry. That's why you've hired lawyers - to think about things like that."

Mr Towner, no doubt reflecting on his lengthy career in the law, including over 20 years with Richards Butler, blinks but says nothing. Needless to say, after the meeting, the young lawyer was suitably mortified on being told of her gaucherie.

For the last ten years Tim Hayward, a mild mannered, affable chap, has been able to inspire terror in even the most hardened businessman - just by walking through the door. He has been head of the receivership department at big six accountancy firm KPMG.

Now someone else is taking up the reins - but new head of UK Corporate Recovery Mike Wheeler will not be marching into any businesses to close them down.

Mr Wheeler isn't even a licensed insolvency practitioner. It turns out that the big accountancy firms now make far more money quietly sorting out banks' problems with client companies behind the scenes than they ever did burying businesses.

Mr Wheeler has been seconded to Midland Bank and worked for Bank of America, and his most testing job so far has been trying to bring some sense of order to debt-laden EuroDisney's 200-odd banks. Definitely not a Mickey Mouse job.

If you hanker impatiently after a key to the executive wash-room, pay close attention. John Sunderland, newly promoted to succeed David Wellings as chief executive at Cadbury Schweppes, has always been ambitious. He has also always taken great care of his appearance. He used to sport a snappy "Alan Sugar" style closely cropped beard, along with immaculately coiffured hair. Then a couple of years ago a colleague took Mr Sunderland aside and dropped a bombshell: "You'll never get to be chief executive with a beard." Off came the beard and - hey presto!