Swedish lesson in how not to leave your wife for your lover

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The Independent Online
THEY do it better - or at least more openly - in Sweden. My poor hapless friend Rupert Pennant-Rea could have learnt a lot from the behaviour of Arne Martensson, managing director of the country's second-largest bank, Svenska Handelsbanken. Earlier this month, Mr M sent a rather touching note round the bank, explaining that normally his personal life was of no interest to the media, but that he felt he ought to announce that he was leaving Eva, his wife of 22 years, for one Helne Melin, who worked closely with him and was leaving her spouse after a similar period of connubial bliss. He hoped that after their marriage planned for September, Ms Melin would be moved to a new job "at arm's length".

A few days later came the greater shock. "Since my last MD's letter, Eva and I have mutually decided to continue with our 22-year and until now durable marriage. So too have Helne and her husband." I do hope there's a Swedish edition of Hello! magazine to record this touching story.

IN THE week following the death of Ronnie Kray, it all sounded rather sinister. "If a customer fails to settle an overdue invoice," wrote the Credit Protection Association, "the CPA will initiate communication between their member and the debtor by re-establishing a dialogue." To be fair to the CPA, if the debtor still does not pay, his legs are not broken nor even encased in cement, he is simply sued.

The CPA flourishes because it produces results - for a relatively small fee it writes letters sufficiently menacing to ensure that 85 per cent of outstanding bills are paid within the month, thus avoiding the need for knee-capping - I mean legal proceedings.

But its services would be less necessary if the Government listened to the frequent, voluble and perfectly justified demand from the small businessmen who are supposed to be its core supporters, and followed the example of our "European partners" by ensuring that debtors had to pay interest if they left bills outstanding for more than a month. But the Government prefers "voluntary action".

A bitter occasion

IT IS doubtful whether any representative of Boddington's Brewery will be on hand when the City branch of Bentley's Restaurant is renamed Sheekey's on 3 April. The occasion would prove too painful.

The idea of revamping the basement of Temple Court in the heart of the City must have semeed like a good idea at the time - the mid-1980s. Boddington's first mistake was to take on a super-heavy lease from the owners of the building, Sumitomo Bank. They then spent nearly two years and £2m transforming the basement into a really rather elegant traditional bar, wine-bar and restaurant complex, named after the West End fish restaurant. The new Bentley's was duly opened - the day before the Great Crash of October 1987.

From then on, it was downhill all the way, and an embarrassed Boddington's finally got rid of the premises this January to Hans Beran, a Viennese- born restaurateur who had picked up Sheekey's, another West End fish place, at a bargain price about 18 months ago. Mr Beran also struck a hard bargain with Boddington's, in particular by getting it to pay some of the rent.

By the time the lease runs out, poor Boddington's will be rubbing a wound of around £5m. Still, the oysters are good.

LIFE isn't all a bed of roses for the head of any privatised utility these days, but for Sir Desmond Pitcher it is positively trying. Nothing to do with regulators, but a glitch in his ambition to fly his newly created coat-of-arms above his modest 10-bedroom pad, Onston Hall, near Acton Bridge in Cheshire.

Sir Desmond, raised on a Liverpool council estate and knighted by the Tories after spells heading Leyland Vehicles and Littlewoods, chose the wrong company to make the heraldic banner.

Sir Des, who earns a derisory £19,000 as part-time chairman of the Merseyside Development Corporation, on top of £360,000 a year as the chairman of North West Water, tried to place the order with with a local firm, the waterfront sailmakers J Nickels & Son.

But Nickels is run by another Mersey knight, Sir Trevor "Jones the Vote" Jones, a Liberal who led Liverpool City Council in the early 1980s.

Sir Trevor refused the Pitcher job: "It was all very intricate appliqu work,'' he said. "We were busy - and I'm glad we were busy, because I don't hold with what Des has been doing in Liverpool. I must say, after what the Merseyside Development Corporation has done around here, I thought Des Pitcher's heraldic device should be a tap, dripping over a broken- down Leyland lorry."

Clearly no fan of Sir Des, Sir Trevor added: "I was one of the original members of the MDC, but now it has changed out of all recognition. They are selling off parcels of land that were intended for industrial regeneration, which is outrageous."

And as for poor Sir Desmond's record at North West Water, "in my view, more was achieved when North West Water was run by the far-sighted councillor, George Mann, who cost us just £10 a day".

Sir Desmond's heraldic emblems, which the knight had to purchase from the College of Arms, have yet to be revealed. Unsurprisingly, Sir Trev was no help. "I haven't got Des's sketch any more. I just remember it was a very tricky job," he said.

Twickers match

IT WASN'T all fun at Twickers for the epic encounter last weeked between England and Scotland (and, more excitingly, between Brian Moore and all and sundry).

Some business was being done at the ground as well, most notably in the box that was reserved by the merchant bank Robert Fleming.

Inside, Bill Harrison, its head of investment banking, could be seen entertaining Martin Broughton, chief executive of the mighty BAT Industries - and a former client of Harrison at Lehman Brothers.

Has the transfer fee been arranged, or was this merely a practice match?