Business Diary: March 20

Dame Stella Rimington at the launch of M&S archives.  Photo: Ross Parry Agency
Dame Stella Rimington at the launch of M&S archives. Photo: Ross Parry Agency
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FORMER spymaster Dame Stella Rimington must be a tough cookie to have reached the top of Britain’s security service.

But the former head of MI5 doesn’t like bad weather, as she revealed at a special dinner to celebrate the opening of the Marks & Spencer’s newly rehoused company archive at Leeds University.

She told the audience how the last time she “had anything to do with Leeds University was in 1953 on a wet and dismal winter’s day” when she sat an entrance examination to read English.

The weather clearly put her off and she decided to study at Edinburgh instead.

Dame Stella had some warmer words for the archive, describing how it “provides some understanding of how Britain has changed through the years”.

She is a member of the governing body for the archive at the jointly-funded Michael Marks building, named after the stall-holder who founded the business at Kirkgate Market 128 years ago.

A passion for sport

MARKS & Spencer chairman Robert Swannell returned to his Yorkshire roots for the launch of the FTSE-100 company’s new archive building at Leeds University.

The former investment banker replaced Sir Stuart Rose at the helm of the famous old retailer last January.

And like Sir Stuart, he spent much of his childhood in Yorkshire, in his case “just up the A64 between York and Malton, in probably the coldest house in the country with no heating and a seemingly permanent ice coating on the bedroom windows and a plague of frogs in the cellar”.

Mr Swannell added: “It was this wonderful city that gave me my passion for sport at Headingley and Elland Road; the sight of a scything tackle from Norman Hunter or Fred Truman at his fluid best was enough to warm the heart and stir the spirits.”

Simply the best

TOURISM chief Gary Verity had no trouble persuading a Somerset radio presenter of the delights of Yorkshire after he was asked: “How on earth have you gone about marketing a place like Yorkshire? After all, it’s just a few industrial towns and a bit of nice scenery.”

The chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire told an audience at the Yorkshire Fastest 50 Awards at Aspire in Leeds that he was approached by BBC Radio Somerset to take part in a phone-in they were having on the lack of marketing of Somerset. Mr Verity said: “They were very exercised by the fact that people drove down the M5 and went through Somerset straight to Devon and Cornwall.”

In reply to the radio presenter’s opening question, Mr Verity said: “In Yorkshire, we are very, very fortunate indeed.

“We have seven vibrant cities, including the first ever city in the UK. I notice in Somerset you’ve just got one city, we’ve got nine racecourses, we’ve got more Michelin star restaurants in Yorkshire than anywhere else in the UK outside of London, we’ve got a vibrant cultural and arts scene, we’ve got a great, stunning coastline, we’ve got the UK’s first ever seaside resort, we’ve got more stately homes and castles than anywhere else in the UK – 57, there are only 16 chateaux in the Loire Valley...

“The chap said: ‘Can I stop you there? I can see why you’ve been so successful at marketing Yorkshire, I’m tempted to come on holiday there myself now’.”

The radio presenter said that they had been taking calls all morning and had come up with a slogan and an image to market Somerset, explained Mr Verity.

The image they had come up with was of “a thatched pub on the edge of the Quantocks... and a man sat outside on a sunny day with a pint of cider”, he recalled.

The slogan they had come up with, said Mr Verity, was as follows: “Don’t pass through Somerset, let Somerset pass through you.”

United in diplomacy

The future of Sheffield United has been much debated in recent times and the club’s directors have consistently batted away questions about possible takeovers.

But when Diary met Kevin McCabe’s two sons, Simon and Scott, this week, it couldn’t resist posing the question of which one would take over the club from their father if and when he retires.

Both of them seemed reluctant to step forward. Simon pointed at Scott, who exclaimed “No!”

Simon diplomatically added. “I think the answer to that is that Kevin will never retire. He’s a robot, he’ll go on forever and he won’t rest until he gets Sheffield United back into the Premiership.”