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Health and Fitness

City People: the feuds, the faces and the farcical

Not so many years ago, Fitness First ruled the roost as Britain’s, nay the world’s biggest health and fitness club operator, with an estimated value of £1.2 billion.

With a break-up of the already slimmed-down Fitness First looking likely, it emerges that the chain has quit the club in Bournemouth where it all began in 1993 and handed the keys to BH Live, a locally based social enterprise.

Mike Balfour, who co-founded Fitness First but has long since retired, says: “I don’t feel sad. It was a great era and I’m very proud the club, which was going through its third round of bankruptcy when we bought it, remained profitable for 24 years. It’s just life.”

Out with the old

A delightful collision of old and new money. Jay Hambro has had a leg up in life from, er, having the name Hambro and by getting jobs working for his pater Peter Hambro (who used to be a mining genius before prices changed direction). Hambro fils has just landed a job as chief investment officer for the Gupta family, an Anglo-Indian clan who have been busy cleaning up in the steel industry, buying distressed assets from the likes of Lord Paul’s cratered Caparo empire.

Roof over their heads?

It’s almost ten months since the company that runs Brocket Hall collapsed into administration, yet the search for a buyer for the lease on Lord Brocket’s ancestral home in Hertfordshire continues. Strangely, Dieter Klostermann, the leaseholder since 1996, and his finance director Jim Moore are still based at the property. In the meantime, the lamentable physical state of the grade I-listed hall, which is in urgent need of a new roof, gets worse.

Missing you already

In one of those irritating surveys, Premier Inn has asked what business guests miss most when away from home. Interestingly, more travellers miss their beds than their children; and men are more likely than women to miss partners.

Business big shot

Name Mike Wells
Age 55
Position Chief executive, Prudential

Mike Wells has come through his trickiest day since taking over at Prudential six months ago (Katherine Griffiths writes). With investors holding their breath to see how Britain’s biggest insurers will fare against new capital standards known as Solvency II, the Pru was the first to disclose the detail yesterday.

Its ratio — a measure of the amount of capital it has as a proportion of the minimum required — came in at 190 per cent, at the high end of most analysts’ expectations.

Mr Wells also steadied his senior team by making John Foley head of the UK business. He had been doing the job on an interim basis since October. Barrie Cornes, a Panmure Gordon analyst, said that Mr Foley was “very much Mike Wells’ man”.

Mr Wells, who was born in Canada but has US citizenship, is beginning to put his stamp on the Pru. When Tidjane Thiam left to run Credit Suisse, Mr Wells — who was running Jackson National Life, Prudential’s US business — was seen by many as an obvious successor. He was awarded a cash-and-shares pay package worth as much as £7.5 million — ample to invest in his Tennessee cattle ranch and collection of Gibson guitars

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