Work hard, sell out - and life's one long holiday

People and Business

FORGET THE Lottery. One man and a married couple are going to trouser nearly pounds 90m between them after they sold their businesses yesterday to First Choice Holidays.

First Choice is buying Hayes & Jarvis, the upmarket holiday company, which is wholly owned by a Ugandan couple, Tom and Melba Correira. Tom and Melba are due to collect pounds 34m from the sale.

First Choice is also buying Unijet, the tour operator and car rentals group, half of which is owned by Chris Parker, who will scoop pounds 55m from the deal. Mr Parker intends to stay on for a year, after which he plans to "go off and count his money." No package holidays for these people, one suspects.

THE TELEPHONE industry watchdog, Oftel, has for the first time ordered a telesales company to stop pestering customers with unwanted calls.

Oftel yesterday ordered James E James Ltd to stop ringing the Greek Taverna in Carshalton, Surrey, after staff at the restaurant repeatedly made it clear they did not want to buy advertising space.

The Liverpool-based advertising company was warned by Oftel that it would be in breach of its licence if it continued to make the calls.

However, James E James Ltd failed to give assurances that it would desist, prompting Oftel director general David Edmonds to issue a final enforcement order against them.

Mr Edmonds said: "It is wrong for people to be continually harassed by telesales companies after clearly asking them not to call again."

Under the Telecommunications Act 1984, all telesales companies must stop calling customers if they are requested to do so. Failure to do so can result in the withdrawal of the company's telesales licence under Condition 6.1(a) of the licence.

Greek Taverna owner Vasos Herodotou described the Oftel order as a "relief", adding: "This has been going on for three years now. I have lost count of the number of times they have rung me trying to sell me advertising." Mr Herodotou said on one occasion he had been rung up five times in 10 minutes.

The calls continued even after James E James Ltd finally agreed to take the restaurant off their telephone list. "Their infrastructure is such that they seemed not to be aware of what is going on," said Mr Herodotou.

DOUGLAS LLAMBIAS, the portly accountant who recently sold his recruitment agency for big bucks, is about to dive headlong into the row over the proposed pounds 450m sale of the RAC to an American bidder.

Mr Llambias, who reputedly drives a Bentley, will launch a campaign today at the RAC annual general meeting to get fairer treatment for staff and pensioners in the anticipated bonanza pay-out.

He proposes to earmark a mere 1 per cent of the members' pay-out to staff and pensioners, giving them an average pounds 5,000 each, instead of just allowing the directors of the RAC to cream off the best part of pounds 1m for themselves, averaging pounds 35,000 each.

Mr Llambias is among other things a formidable member of the council of the Institute of Chartered Accountants. He enjoys the reputation of being a thorn in their side, never happier than when championing the anti- establishment option. The RAC had better watch out.

WHO AUDITS the auditors? BDO Stoy Hayward does, when it comes to Big Six accountancy giant Ernst & Young. E&Y is following the example of its erstwhile partner KPMG in submitting its accounts to outside scrutiny for the first time, something accountancy firms have not been keen on in the past. The Stoy chaps should have some fun, given their much publicised antipathy towards the bigger firms typified by E&Y.

CALLING ALL connoisseurs of fine wine: avoid 1997 Bordeaux, and go instead for Burgundies. This is the advice of John Armit, whose eponymous company in London has a specialist wine investment division.

While Mr Armit regards the Bordeaux 1997 vintage as "charming", he fears that chateaux owners have priced last year's wines more highly than the top quality 1996 vintages.

He suggests this may be because "the owners feel that they sold their 1995 and 1996 wines too cheaply and so want to sell the less good 1997 vintage more expensively to compensate."

On the other hand, he speculates: "The owners are aware that there is very little stock of older vintages in Bordeaux and that merchants like us will be obliged to buy to ensure that we do not lose our place for the 1999, 2000 and 2001 vintages which will inevitably be in huge demand."

The solution? Fill your cellars with Burgundy instead. "The quality of wine being made in Burgundy today is higher than it has ever been and the prices of Burgundy are very low when compared to Bordeaux." I'm a Hirondelle man myself.

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