Dorling's new chief will drive for growth

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The Independent Online
DORLING KINDERSLEY, the publisher of illustrated reference and educational books, is splitting the role of its chairman and chief executive, Peter Kindersley, and losing its managing director, Rod Hare, after a rough two years punctuated by four profits warnings.

After looking around for nine months with the help of headhunters, the chairman and leading shareholder, Peter Kindersley, is dropping the chief executive role in favour of a whiz-kid marketing man, James Middlehurst, 41, who has been managing director of Polygram's Britannia Music arm for the past five years. Mr Middlehurst drove Britannia's sales up fivefold from pounds 40m to pounds 200m.

The appointment has clarified the position of Rod Hare, 37, who "didn't feel that a new chief executive and managing director could co-exist." He is leaving in September with a pay-off of around pounds 260,000. Mr Hare said had "been with Dorling for 11 years and has been thinking about a change of direction".

Mr Kindersley, who has had to announce two successive setbacks in profits, from pounds 12.9m to pounds 7.7m in 1996/97 and from pounds 6.7m to pounds 4m in the first half of this year, says that at 57 he is ready to step back from day-to-day management.

He will concentrate on creative product ideas, motivating staff around the world and looking outside the company at the marketplace. Mr Middlehurst will be in charge of day-to-day management and strategy.

The board said they appeared to have found "the ideal man to drive the business forward in growth mode". In addition to his job at Britannia, Mr Middlehurst ran Time-Life Books' UK operations between 1983 and 1987 and was marketing chief at Magnet from 1987 to 1989 and at Allied Irish Banks from 1989 to 1993.

Dorling lost its finance director and head of US operations last year when it was hit by the strong pound and slow growth in America. It took a hit of pounds 2.5m when it axed 280 jobs in London, but said it would make annual savings of pounds 3.5m as a result.

Dorling Kindersley shares edged up by 0.5p to 216.5p on the news of the boardroom shake-up. They have fallen back from a peak of 306.5p last October, despite forecasts by stockbrokers of a second-half recovery after cost- cutting that is expected to revive profits from pounds 7.7m to pounds 8.8m in the year to June.

The results will be announced in mid-September.