NTLprepared to File for Chapter 11
LORD Daresbury, formerly known as Peter Greenall, has won friends in the City for the way he transformed his family brewing business into De Vere, a diversified leisure and hotel group. There have been alarums a-plenty along the way, but De Vere has survived the crisis in the tourism industry over the past 12 months (no sooner had foot-and-mouth been combatted than the 11 September factor hit) better than most.
The shares closed at a 12-month high of 355p last Thursday. Yet more admirable, however, has been Daresbury's performance as chairman of Aintree racecourse, which hosts the Grand National this Saturday.
For the past decade this has been a hair-raising task, with the constant threat from IRA terrorists, animal rights activists, the bone-headed incompetence of the starters and the foot-and-mouth calamity.
This time last year I was there when yet another threat presented itself: the weather. On the day itself it was pouring with rain, the course was sodden and there were many who thought the race should be called off.
Ultimately the decision lay with Daresbury himself. It must have been very lonely for him, as the minutes ticked away to the race, with hundreds of millions of people around the world glued to their television sets.
I doubt if the conditions have ever been worse in the 180-year-old history of this greatest of all horseraces. In the end, Daresbury - a former top-class amateur jockey - pressed on and I am certain he made the right decision.
Only four horses out of 40 competed, and two of them had to be remounted, but another chapter in the incredible history of Aintree had been written. The great thing - and the ultimate vindication of Daresbury's judgment - was not one horse was killed or injured.
Who knows what lies in store this year? But there could not be a better man in charge of what is incontestably the greatest sporting event in the world.
We will, of course, be there for the epic event this Saturday and I have devoted a large part of the past week to studying the form. It is already clear that one horse merits special attention.
This is Beau, trained by Nigel Twiston- Davies. This horse has been absolutely laid for the race and has all the qualities required to win. The worry is that Twiston-Davies has been in wretched form - when I last looked he had trained no less than 75 consecutive losers.
But the Grand National is exactly the kind of race to break that kind of dreadful sequence. The horse can currently be backed at 16-1. For a long-odds outsider with a decent chance, look at Mister One.
N THE past decade, football has transformed from a sport rooted in the lives of ordinary people into a caricature of 19th-century capitalism. The sport is simultaneously rolling in money - look at Manchester United's u43m wages bill - and insolvent, with the future of 30 or so lower-division clubs threatened by the collapse of ITV Digital. …