The Diary has discovered that United Biscuits group chief executive Eric Nicoli has been harbouring a dark secret. One he almost shared with the likes of Marion Morrison (John Wayne) and Shirley Crabtree (the wrestler Big Daddy).
Nicoli’s parents almost called him Gladys.
Nicoli’s Italian father was captured during World War Two and sent, as a prisoner of war, to work on a farm in Norfolk. Nicoli senior brought his wife to Norfolk when he was offered a job at the end of the war and Nicoli junior was duly born down on the farm.
The farmer in question welcomed the new Nicoli to the fold but, worried that the babe would be given an unpronounceable Italian name, offered “Eric” as a steady English alternative.
“It could have been a lot worse – the farmer and his wife were called Sam and Gladys,” says Nicoli.