Business Diary: April 5

ALLAN Leighton had a startling confession to make when Diary caught up with him last week.

Startling in the sense that it is not what you might expect to hear from the former head of Asda when talking about Yorkshire rival Morrisons.

“I have always loved that business,” he said, speaking before the annual dinner of the Leeds, York and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce.

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“I was a great fan of Ken, who in many ways is one of my heroes. When we came to Asda, that was the business we looked up to for how they merchandised, and Tesco was the business that we looked up to for how they ran it.

“I always thought Morrisons was a great business. I tried to buy Safeway a number of times when I was at Asda, so I have always known the potential that business has.”

At Weston, the Canadian retail group, Mr Leighton hired Dalton Philips, who would later go on to take the top job at Bradford-based Morrisons.

Mr Leighton said: “He’s been brought up the right way. We have a way in which we do things which is respecting people and understanding the customers, and he does that. I talk to him a lot and he’s made a really big impact early on and I think he will turn out to be a very, very accomplished CEO of that business.”

Mark my words

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IT’S a mistake to think of the world in polarised terms, according to the chairman of Fenner. It is risky, too, and could curtail business advancement, said Mark Abrahams.

“There’s been a belief for the last 10 or 20 years that says in high-cost European economies we have the brain power but we don’t have low-cost manufacturing, so we farm it out to the Far East and keep all the design capability in the UK,” he told Diary.

“I don’t subscribe to that view because if you start divorcing design capability from the factories, then you lose the currency of those designers.

“Our designers are in factories all the time. What works in theory has a horrible knack of not working quite the same way in practice. It’s a huge mistake to think you can give the Chinese low-tech production and keep hi-tech production in the West.”

Wise words – and worth sharing.

City of culture

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THESE may be straitened times for the arts sector, but Leeds still needs to shout about its cultural heritage.

That’s the message that came out of a major networking event, held at the Queens Hotel in Leeds, which Diary attended along with the great and the good.

The event, which was hosted by Marketing Leeds and law firm Irwin Mitchell, also saw the launch of “Leeds. Expand your Horizons”, a short guide which highlights the city’s strengths.

Delegates at the event agreed that Leeds’ business and community leaders must highlight the city’s great festivals, internationally acclaimed performing arts and the opening of the Leeds Arena in 2013.

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Deborah Green, the chief executive of Marketing Leeds, said: “There is clear recognition that Leeds is a fantastic city to live in, to work in and to invest in and is a place we ought to be incredibly proud of.

“All of those who came together at this event agree that we have an invaluable opportunity now to shout about what we do well and to communicate the facts about our assets regionally, nationally and internationally.”

The delegates also acknowledged that extra investment in transport infrastructure is required, such as the improvements planned for Leeds Bradford International Airport and the city station southern entrance.

Safe and sound

CRASH tests aren’t normally done on the M1.

If this is the exception, however, then the £95,000 Ginetta F400 proved its worth when it came a cropper early one morning last week.

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The vehicle was on its way from Garforth to London for Ginetta chairman Lawrence Tomlinson to use at a charity ball, when it was hit by an aquaplaning car, smashed into the central reservation and spun three times before coming to a standstill, when it was hit by another passing vehicle.

Naturally, it was a write-off but the driver, the firm’s PR manager, walked away unharmed.

Of course, it may have knocked a bit of the glamour off Mr Tomlinson’s arrival at Rick Parfitt’s star-studded Rock Ball, in aid of the RPJ Crohns Foundation, at the Hurlingham Club, but the entrepreneur, who made his fortune from care homes, didn’t seem to mind.

“The safety of our cars is our number one priority, the car stood up to the shunt brilliantly with the driver safety cell completely intact and both doors opening as normal.”