2 JANUARY 1993, Page 6


NIGEL DEMPSTER he head of the Guinness family, the 3rd Earl of Iveagh, died last June, aged 55, from cancer of the throat, while living at the Kensington home of his former wife Miranda. As chairman of Guinness from 1962 to 1986, he was responsible for appointing Ernest Saunders chief executive in 1981. The brief to Saunders, formerly with Beechams, Nestle and Great Universal Stores, was 'make the family rich'. This Saunders set about doing with a series of divestments and takeovers, culminating in the victorious battle for Distillers. As a measure of Saunders' success the share price at the time of Iveagh's death had increased by 1,000 per cent since 1981, with the Guinness family profiting by £180 mil- lion. Benjamin Iveagh, who had long fought a battle with drink as well as cancer, made promises to Saunders, following the arrival of DTI inspectors at the company's head- quarters in December 1986, that the Guin- ness family would never renege on under- takings to safeguard Saunders' financial interest. He reiterated them on 10 January 1987, four days before he was party to the board decision to kick Saunders out with- out a penny. These promises he signally failed to keep even though, when I pressed him about his intentions while Saunders was standing trial, he said that the matter would be honourably dealt with on the completion of the case, whatever hap- pened. If Saunders had not won Distillers, Guinness would be a so-so company with a capitalisation of around £1 billion, not the current £10 billion. In November, Saun- ders, who had to sell his Buckinghamshire home to pay lawyers and has been living with his son in Putney, received a tax-free lump sum of just under £150,000 from Guinness in respect of his pension rights. He also receives an annual pension of £65,000. (Sir Ralph Halpern left Burton with £2 million and a pension of £10,000 a week.) Iveagh's will has not been published yet. But his own (not family trust) shares in the company are worth £60 million, he had a 23,000-acre estate in Suffolk, valued at £50 million, property in Ireland, where he was domiciled, worth in excess of £10 mil- lion and holdings in Guinness trusts in North America, primarily Canada, estimat- ed in excess of £250 million. It would be charitable to believe that Saunders receives a mention in Iveagh's will. But 1 suspect he does not.

he separations in the royal family have been providing a boon for publicity-con- scious estate agents and realtors on both sides of the Atlantic. Never one to miss an opportunity to boost his properties, the soi- disant billionaire Donald Trump has been delighted at press reports, no doubt planted

by his cohorts, that the Princess of Wales is considering the purchase of a $1-million Manhattan apartment in his trashy Trump Tower. It is a risible suggestion for some- one with no friends in America, who needs 24-hour Scotland Yard protection and has two children at school in Berkshire. How- ever, several Fleet Street tabloids have fall- en for that one and in the coming weeks I will be watching out for unconfirmed 'sight- ings' of the Princess viewing country hous- es, a glut of which are coming on the mar- ket due to events at Lloyd's of London and will need hyping.

he Prime Minister's hopes for a class- less society sit uneasily with that twice annual hand-out of honours, ranging from peerages to the lowly British Empire Medal. The New Year's list, published this week, had the usual, inevitable mix of drea- ry politicians, businessmen and civil ser- vants, as well as sports people, artists and local worthies.What seems certain is that we have heard the last of hereditary titles, following the shilly-shallying of Mrs T, who eventually settled for a life peerage, in all probability to spare further vilification of her adored son Mark who would have become a viscount and, in the fullness of time, an earl. A year ago just four life peers were made, in the knowledge that the 1992 general election would bring another slew; and duly, in June, a further dozen were ennobled. Their contribution to debate in the Upper House has so far been almost negligible — Lord Archer, for instance, made his maiden speech only last month.

Messy divorce. Honours are an essential tool of bribery — where would the Whips' Office be without them? — as well as being regarded as going with the job. In the Eighties, purchasing Beaverbrook (later Express) Newspapers guaranteed an automatic peerage (step for- ward Lords Matthews and Stevens) and any chairman of ICI, Courtaulds and other leading companies would commit hara-kiri if not given a 'K'. As ever this week there are omissions. The most glaring is that of Alan Clark, whose innate honesty in the witness-box led to the collapse of the Matrix Churchill trial in November and the acquittal of three directors who otherwise would probably have been found guilty and Jailed. Although retired from the House of Commons after 18 years as MP for Ply- mouth, Sutton, and latterly as Minister of Defence during `Irangate', Clark has, in no sense, retired, and has refused to be fobbed off with a knighthood from which there is usually no elevation.

Just as there is little sympathy for belea- guered Names at Lloyd's, who are consid- ered to be rich gamblers who have lost, the plight of racehorse owners evokes similar reactions. But there is a difference. Racing is Britain's third largest industry, employing 100,000 people. It is in danger of terminal decline, not least because VAT is at 17.5 per cent while in France it is 5.5 and 2.7 in Ireland, and bookmakers put a miserly amount of their profits back into the sport. Unlike many owners, I am lucky that my horses win races, and on Monday 4 January at Newbury I have every hope of being in the winner's enclosure again with my seven- year-old hurdler, Switch, collecting a prize equal to two months' training fees. The cost of a horse in training is around £15,000 a year, prizes average less than f3,000 and only one horse in ten ever wins, so owner- ship has long been a hobby for sporting folk with a few bob to spare. Now half the yards in Newmarket, the headquarters of racing, are up for sale. Even the Arabs, principally the Croesus-rich ruling Maktoum family of Dubai, are cutting back or concentrating more on France and Germany, where prize money is much better. If the Maktoums quit altogether the consequences will be horrific. At Royal Ascot last June, 1 learned of one other reason why the Maktoums feel they have not been made welcome in this country — they have invested £1 billion in racing here yet none of the four brothers has been invited to join the Queen, Britain's most famous owner, for lunch at Windsor Castle, followed by a ceremonial coach ride beside her down the course. That one picture beamed back by satellite television to Dubai would have made it all worthwhile.