Bock shares role of chief executive with Rowland

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DIETER BOCK, the enigmatic German businessman who has become Lonrho's largest shareholder, has been appointed joint chief executive of the international trading group alongside Roland 'Tiny' Rowland.

The two men, as joint chief executives, will share the responsibilities of running the group, which has interests ranging from mining to tea, sugar production and hotels. Lonrho also owns the Observer newspaper.

In December and January, the 53-year-old Mr Bock, whose business career has been largely pursued in property investment, acquired an 18.8 per cent shareholding in Lonrho.

He will have no specific duties as a main board director of Lonrho. 'I am going to learn a lot from Mr Rowland,' he said yesterday.

Mr Rowland, 75, has agreed to stay on for at least three years. 'I feel 55 instead of 75. I shall be here in five years' time or longer,' he said, adding: 'I have a lot to learn from Mr Bock.'

Lonrho is due to announce its results today for the year ended last September. In December the group warned that pre-tax profits would show a fall from pounds 205m to pounds 79m.

The group has embarked on an extensive disposal programme to reduce borrowings. But Mr Bock said yesterday: 'We do not intend to sell any controlling stakes in core businesses.' Lonrho would be selling 4,300 apartments in Germany, he added.

'We will go more carefully than other companies and reduce borrowings further,' Mr Bock said.

Commenting on the future of the Observer, amid speculation that it would be sold, Mr Bock said there were 'no plans now'.

Last December the shareholders were told that Lonrho expected to be able to raise pounds 300m to pounds 400m as a result of further disposals this year.

Lonrho's share price remained unchanged at 75p after the announcement of Mr Bock's appointment.