Always great to see a name from the past back in the headlines. Robin Binks on Monday landed the top job at Freeport Leisure, the property group that has been embroiled in corporate governance controversy under pressure from Laxey Partners, the investors.
Binks, those with long memories will recall, was the Warburg corporate finance director who decided to try his hand at running a business by joining Cannon Street Investments in 1990 as managing director.
Within months of his arrival, CSI had a rights issue that flopped and a disastrous profit warning. The then chief executive, who had built the business in typical 1980s go-go manner, left, and Binks was promoted to sort out the mess. After 15 months of disposals, he too was replaced, returning to corporate finance work.
Binks was not the only contender for the Freeport job, it seems. Laxey is understood to have nominated Robert Ware, the man it had tried but failed to put into the chair at Wyevale, the garden centre group. Mudlark cannot resist wondering where he’ll pop up next.
Tim Waterstone has been described as the man who wouldn’t let go. For Alan Giles, it is more a case of a man who couldn’t get away.
Like Prometheus, who was chained to a rock with an eagle tearing at his liver for eternity, Giles seems to be getting more ensnared in HMV’s affairs with each day, despite declaring his desire to resign.
Giles recently insisted he would step down as chief executive by the summer. But following Monday’s approach by Waterstone’s for the book chain bearing his name, Giles is now expecting to be chained to his rock a bit longer. “The end of the year,” he sighs, “with any luck”.
In the office on Monday, despite their exertions on Sunday, were both Trevor Bish-Jones, chief executive of Woolworths, and Adam Crozier, top dog at Royal Mail. Both completed the London marathon in decent times, each raising thousands for charity.
Bish-Jones took the longer time, 4 hours 46 minutes and 11 seconds. Running with five colleagues, he raised cash for children’s charities. On Monday he confessed: “It’s a barking mad thing to do and it hurts a lot.”
Crozier, running in aid of hospices, achieved a faster time of 4:14:01. Interviewed as he finished the race, he said: “Between 14 and 18 miles were the worst for me as I felt like I was going the wrong way.” How many postmen use that excuse?
Open the box
Five hundred years ago today, Cambridge University appointed its first Registrary. While the title has become obsolete everywhere else (other institutions shortened it to registrar), Cambridge has clung to its tradition more tenaciously than ivy does to its walls. “We like to think of ourselves as a modern university,” laughs an official. The current incumbent, Timothy Mead, is the 25th holder of the office, which makes for an average tenure of 20 years.
As well as managing a budget of £27m, Mead has the onerous duty of taking care of the University Chest. This predates his title, since it is 600 years old. It is, even so, a “new” chest – the original was burnt during the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. This was a calamity, since it contained the university’s entire pre-Caxton library, which comprised three books placed there as security against loans.
We all have too much stuff and the self-storage industry is riding high, as interim results from Lok’nStore on Monday showed. One reason is that while charity shops thumb their noses at your old Barry Manilow records, and relatives balk at housing your cot, the storage provider accepts anything.
Andrew Jacobs, chief executive at Lok’nStore, admits that it recently accommodated a parcel of bull semen. “It is not something we generally store,” he says cautiously. It might be a fertile area for expansion.
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