Giving identity to the UFI

5th May 2000 at 01:00
SPOT the link between Smirnoff, Guinness, Burger King, learn- direct ... Give up? The three famous brands and the University for Industry are united by Sir Anthony Greener, chairman of Diageo plc, the company formed by the 1997 merger of Guinness and Grand Metropolitan.

Next month he takes over as chairman of the UFI from Lord Dearing, who at almost 70 has decided to let someone younger hold the reins - Sir Anthony will be 60 on May 26.

Relinquishing his Diageo role to Lord Blyth, chairman of Boots, on June 1 will leave Sir Anthony with more time on his hands. He may well have picked the right moment to depart considering the food and drink conglomerate's most recent figures indicate a 22 per cent drop in profits, despite a 5 per cent sales rise.

The UFI is not uncharted territory for Sir Anthony, as he has been vice chairman since February 1999.

He describes the initiative as exciting and believes it can "make a real difference to people, helping them to realise their potential, and bring huge benefits to UK businesses". However, the detail of his plans for UFI must remain a mystery, as he doesnot give interviews.

In his chairman's statement last year, Sir Anthony said that Diageo has some of the best food and drinks brands in the world. Hopefully some of his experience in launching the alcopop Smirnoff Ice and bottled Guinness Draught will help fortify the learndirect brand, which the UFI adknowledges needs to be far better known.

Sir Anthony will probably be expecting more than just a gold watch when his reign as Diageo chairman ends next month. The Sunday Times reported in 1997 that he earned pound;750,000 the previous year as chairman of Guinness, but the UFI job is unpaid.

Still, it is only part-time, leaving plenty of scope for the two pastimes his Who's Who entry lists: skiing and sailing - Sir Anthony is a member of the Royal Ocean Racing Club and the Royal Yacht Squadron at Cowes.

The Marlborough College-educated father of two is also a member of the Department for Trade and Industry's Competitiveness Council, set up in July last year. He sits on the Council for Industry and Higher Education and chairs the Confederation of British Industry's employment policy committee.

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