This week’s exclusive Diary includes rumours about a Jamie Oliver-inspired hotel; the latest on a London opening of Balthazar; Sir Alan Sugar’s top advice on running a business; and why David Bruce is a prince among men. Two minds on London Balthazar It seems that plans by Richard Caring, the entrepreneur behind the Ivy and the Cote chain, to open a London version of the New York-based Balthazar restaurant in Covent Garden may not be straight forward. Diary hears from its US cousins that Keith McNally, the London-born restaurateur behind a clutch of New York eateries including the original Balthazar, is no so sure about the project. When asked on US radio, he said: “I suppose I might, but I’m not sure...I’m in two minds about that.” Apprentice ‘loser’ has last laugh Fall out from the Apprentice part 254. It seems that even when you are runner-up on the Apprentice you still end up a winner, or should that be breadwinner? Runner-up Helen Milligan, executive assistant to Greggs’ chief executive Ken McMeikan, is to become the high street baker’s new head of retail in the south east. Sir Alan’s work ethic Boss of Thorley Taverns Phil Thorley was the star turn at the MA250 conference with his top tips on how to run a business. One piece of sage advice was that fellow bosses should attend conferences such as the one he was addressing to “sharpen their pencils” - become refreshed with new ideas. He told delegates that he’d attended a business seminar at the 02 centre where Lord Alan Sugar was on the bill. And Thorley’s verdict: “He was really, really good - nothing like he is like on the Apprentice. However, I think working for him still would be pretty scary. And do you know what his top tip was? When you’re at work, work - wouldn’t it be great of we could get all of our people just to work when they were at work?” Mad price for Punch pub Diary notes that the Scotgate pub in Stamford, Lincolnshire, owned by Punch Taverns, is set to be converted to offices. The pub was originally owned by Pubmaster and was sold to a private multiple for £130,000 in around 2000. The private multiple refurbished the pub and sold it four years later to Punch for £495,000. It’s been on the market for the past few months for around £425,000. Design and marketing company D Squared is hoping to buy the pub and has submitted a change of use planning application to the local authority to turn the site into offices. Has Diary mentioned that he was a shareholder in the company that sold the pub to Punch and thinks £500,000 is a mad sum of money to pay for his particular pub? Jamie Oliver hotel: not a pukka rumour Diary isn’t usually backward in coming forward when it comes to following up rumours and speculation, but even we have to draw the line somewhere. So while a recent overheard rumour involving high-profile chef Jamie Oliver opening a catering college on the site of the Olympic village after the 2012 Games seems plausible, we think an Oliver-inspired hotel whisper may be taking things a step to far. Admiral dips into pockets Tenanted pub operator Admiral Taverns has taken a different tack with the arrival of chairman Jonathan Paveley and chief executive Kevin Georgel. Helped by a £600m Lloyds Bank writedown, there’s strong investment going into the estate. A source tells Diary: “Busy week for Admiral on capex front – nine proposals signed off this week (a £400,000 spend in total), a further eight set to be penned into the programme next week. Kevin and the board are going for it.” Good to hear, isn’t it? Burrito madness How far would you go to win free burritos for a year? Well, how about running around Oxford Circus while downing a shot of tequila, wolfing down a burrito and finally eating a salsa del Diablo? If that sounds up your street, the three-year birthday celebrations of fledgling Mexican chain, Benito’s Hat, which take place at its three London sites tomorrow night, is the place for you. Diary and its delicate stomach might give it a miss. Bruce is the best Full marks go to all-round-good-guy David Bruce, the founder of Capital Pub Company who is currently executive chairman of Country Food & Dining. Bruce, who also set up the Firkin chain, has stepped up to become the new president of the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust. Turns out his links with this particular canal is long-standing. His affection for the canal began in 1966 when he embarked on his 44 year career in the industry. As a trainee brewer at Simonds Brewery in Reading, he spent many a lunch hour by the canal as it flowed through Brewery Gut. Following the sale of Bruce’s brewery and the Firkin Pubs in 1988, he and his wife Louise moved to Hungerford and created The Bruce Charitable Trust. It provides holidays for disabled people on its four specially-designed, purpose-built, wide-beam canal boats, the first two of which are named after their daughters, Rebecca and Hannah. During the past 21 years more than 11,500 people with special needs, together with their carers, have enjoyed holidays cruising from The Bruce Trust’s two bases, at Great Bedwyn and Lower Foxhangers. He’s a very nice man is David Bruce. More criticism of PPL PPL, the body that collects music royalties on behalf of record companies and performers, has received stiff criticism recently over plans to increase fees for its Special Featured Entertainment tariff by up to 4,000% for some venues. But it’s not only the pub industry with concerns. One irate record company source tells Diary: “These people are living in a f***ing dream world; 4,000% just means no one will declare, they’ll be a few big busts but more people will stop playing music - or just focus purely on unsigned [artists], which means no one will get any money.” However, the source adds: “In truth though, it’s probably just sensationalist journalism, like the classic ‘CD format is dead’, ‘Spotify will kill iTunes’, ‘No one will ever pay for music again’ bull****.” Time will tell.