PRICKLY business is in the offing at today’s annual meeting for investors in Durex condom maker SSL International, as minor shareholder Tariq Siddiqi prepares to take a stand.<br /><br />If the name sounds familiar, it’s because Siddiqi shot to fame back in 2005, when he persuaded David Blunkett to take up the bioscience job that eventually led to the former home secretary’s resignation. But Siddiqi now has other problems, and is determined to use the cut and thrust of the Durex name, as it were, to further his case.<br /><br />His concerns centre around SSL’s 11 per cent investment in sexually-transmitted disease (STD) testing tiddler Stirus Global Solutions, with which the consumer goods giant got into bed for £1m a couple of years ago. But Siddiqi is currently entangled in a legal ownership dispute with Stirus, which was originally formed out of SGS Laboratories, a company he helped found in early 2006. He believes SSL should write down its investment in Stirus to take into account the dispute, and is planning to give out letters at the meeting today and make happy declarations about springing leaks and catching infectious diseases. <br /><br />SSL, for its part, is adamant the asset is still worth £1m and says it “is aware of the dispute but is not directly affected by a matter between other parties”. <br /><br />Then again, it’s probably quite unfazed by the prospect of sorting out this sort of nasty itch.<br /><br /><strong>SPEEDY RECOVERY</strong><br />Commiserations to poor old Hugh-Guy Lorriman, Seymour Pierce’s senior leisure analyst, who is currently recuperating in hospital after being involved in a nasty bike smash yesterday morning.<br /><br />Despite concussion, a cracked rib and a suspected fractured shoulder, I hear the brave chap’s holding up remarkably well, and we wish him all the best for a speedy recovery.<br /><br />If that’s what you get for huffing and puffing away every morning cycling miles and miles into work, The Capitalist will stick to the bus, thank you very much.<br /><br /><strong>YANKEE DOODLE</strong><br />While we’re on the subject of zealous cyclists, perhaps patriotic mayor Boris Johnson might want to watch his step with London’s sizeable Yankee expat community.<br /><br />Speaking last night at a ceremony to mark the topping out of the swanky new Park Plaza hotel near Westminster Bridge, Boris chatted about the merits of Britain as a tourist destination in comparison to the US. <br /><br />“London has been voted the number-one tourist destination in the world,” he mused. “Do you think it is because we have the best command of the world’s best language? Though there are other countries where they profess to speak English, like America...”<br /><br />You’re on dangerous territory there, chum.<br /><br /><strong>BRAIN TEASER</strong><br />If you’re stumped by Trivial Pursuit, frustrated by Scrabble and bored with Monopoly, take heart: there’s a new board game on the scene to while away a rainy day.<br /><br />Yep, the City of London has produced its own offering in aid of the Lord Mayor’s Appeal charities, where the aim of the game is to reach the Mansion House and become Lord Mayor. <br /><br />Of course, the way is fraught with difficulty in that players have to secure Ward seats, win elections, take on the role of Freeman and be the first Sheriff to progress to Lord Mayor, all by answering tricky brainteasers about the City, its culture and landmarks. <br /><br />But it can be yours for just under £30 from Guildhall’s library and art gallery shops, St Paul’s Cathedral shop and, from August, at John Lewis and Peter Jones. Form an orderly queue now…<br /><br /><strong>HUMBLE BEGINNINGS</strong><br />It’s good to know that even famous entrepreneurs have to start somewhere, isn’t it?<br /><br />Cobra beer founder Lord Bilimoria has recorded an interview for CNBC’s The Leaders tonight and is effusive about his humble beginnings in business, selling Indian polo sticks in the UK. Having captained the Cambridge polo team on its first tour of India, Bilimoria decided that there was a market for his “lighter, whippier and cheaper” bamboo polo sticks, though at first, those snooty folk at Harrods weren’t having any of it.<br /><br />“I managed with great difficulty to sell them to Harrods,” he said. “Initially the assistant buyer wouldn’t even meet me…”<br /><br />Still, after a joint venture between him and Molson Coors saved the beer business from administration a few months ago, those early setbacks seem to have stood a resilient Bilimoria in good stead.<br /><br />“Talking to… the most successful business people in the country, I asked them how many times did you nearly lose everything, and almost every one of them will say at least two or three times in their career,” he reasons, calmly. <br /><br />“They nearly lost everything, I nearly lost everything.”<br /><br />Brave words indeed.