People and business: One son fails to rise at Carpetright

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The Independent Online
MARTIN HARRIS, 29-year-old son of Lord Harris of Peckham, has quit as an executive director of his father's company, Carpetright, just 18 months after being appointed, in order to sort out his private life.

Lord Harris, 56, who rejected charges of nepotism when he promoted his son to the position of marketing director in June 1997, said yesterday he was "very sorry to be losing him. He's done a hell of a good job".

The former Conservative Party treasurer denied rumours that his son's departure was due to a row over the company, which is 22 per cent owned by the family.

Carpetright recently lost its finance director, Ian Sneyd, who was replaced in July by Shena Winning after a disagreement over how the group should be run.

Martin Harris, who is 30 on 17 January, will remain a non-executive director of the 300-strong carpet shop chain. He will receive no payoff. Lord Harris hopes that Martin will return to full service with the company in around six months' time.

Lord Harris has three sons and a daughter. Carpetright also employs elder son Peter, who is in charge of purchasing. But it was Martin, educated at Curry University in Boston, who the City assumed was being groomed to inherit the business.

John Kitching, managing director at Carpetright, will add marketing to his responsibilities.

JONATHAN FRY, the boss of Premier Asset Management, travelled northwards recently to compare notes with one of his business contacts, Graham Bates of Bates & Partners, a firm of independent financial advisers (IFAs) based in the Midlands.

Mr Bates was musing aloud on the possible merits of opening an office down south in London. Mr Fry observed that Mr Bates only wanted to do so "in order to join Glyndebourne", the high-toned opera house in East Sussex.

Mr Bates replied: "But you know I don't know anything about football clubs."

Perhaps he should stick to Covent Garden United...

IT'S NOT just Sassenachs who harbour stereotypical images of the noble Scots, if a recent TV advert in Greece is anything to go by.

Panafon, the Greek subsidiary of mobile phone group Vodafone, ran an ad for Panafon's float on the Greek stock exchange just before Christmas. It featured two Scotsmen in kilts doing the twist to the throbbing beat of Chubby Checker, in front of a roaring log fire. The sign-off ran: "So cheap it even makes a Scotsman party." Disgraceful.

A PROTeGe of Peter Wood, the founder of Direct Line, has been appointed chief executive of the retail arm of one of the UK's top 10 personal insurance companies - at the tender age of 36.

Neil Utley is leaving Privilege Insurance, another firm founded by Mr Wood, which Mr Utley helped turn into Britain's fastest-growing general insurer in his last two years as chief executive.

Mr Utley is moving to Cox Insurance as chief executive of its retail division. Cox was formed from a Lloyds' specialist underwriting business around 10 years ago, providing cover for things such as nuclear power stations and private aircraft.

At least the rest of Cox's executive is a bit more venerable. Duncan Heath, 59, the current head of the retail division, will replace the current chairman, Roger Heath, 65, who is retiring this year.

THE MORE cynical of the City's analysts have come up with a new collective catch phrase for small, spivvy property shares - "lifestyle stocks".

They are so named because the shareholders' funds go to support the champagne, caviar and chauffeur-driven lifestyles of the executives rather than humdrum assets of bricks and mortar.