Forte rubbishes Granada bid 'farce'

Sir Rocco claims Robinson 'does not believe in style or service'

SIR ROCCO FORTE yesterday called Granada's bid for the Forte hotel and restaurant group "a farce". Sir Rocco said Gerry Robinson, chief executive of Granada, was a corporate raider interested only in sucking the group dry before moving on to another target. Granada, he complained, had no long-term strategy: "He's a milker of businesses, not a builder of businesses. He has to keep buying things to keep going."

He said Mr Robinson had no concept of quality, service or style: "Robinson doesn't have one quality business in his portfolio. He doesn't talk about style and service - he doesn't believe in them - which is why he's such an inappropriate person to run this business."

Sir Rocco's outspoken re-marks contrast sharply with the carefully crafted criticisms of Mr Robinson. Although he has not directly attacked Sir Rocco, the Granada boss's charges that Forte has been poorly managed clearly hit home. In the offer document he chastised Forte for having a "misguided strategy", missing its performance targets, and "failing to exploit good brands". Forte, shareholders were told, "has lost credibility and forfeited the right to count on your support". The subtle portrayal of Sir Rocco as a toff, ignoring his humble origins as the grandson of an Italian immigrant, also must have hurt.

Mr Robinson said he was astonished by Sir Rocco's criticisms. "It's just wrong," he said of the corporate raider charge. "I've never been at a business for less than eight or nine years."

Sir Rocco defended his own performance, pointing in particular to recent jumps in pre-tax profit and a youthful new management team. Many of the ideas put forward by Mr Robinson he claims as his own, such as the flotation of the Alpha Airports Group.

The figures in the offer document, however, show that compared with the FTA All-Share Index, Forte's stock has been falling, or at best static, for five years while Granada has soared. Mr Robinson cites the return on a pounds 100 investment made in late 1990. At Forte it would, by now, have gained pounds 30. At Granada, pounds 444. The defence against such comparisons is that the baseline is just prior to the recession and Gulf War crisis that devastated the leisure industry.

Such vitriol early in the bid battle seems likely to signal a dirty, no-holds-barred scrap. The first battlefield, being approached from both sides next week, is the Council of Forte, the trust that holds a controlling block of votes. Mr Robinson wants them to remain neutral. Sir Rocco will not say what he will ask of them.

Whichever way the council goes, the Takeover Panel will have the final say. During the last bid for Forte, in 1971, it decided that the council's heavily weighted trust shares would not count towards acceptance. But in that case both the Council and Forte's board agreed.

If the council's trust shares are discounted, remaining shareholders suddenly become significant. The largest is Mercury Asset Management with 12.5 per cent. It also owns almost 15 per cent of Granada. The reasons it built up the two stakes are quite different, and not encouraging for Sir Rocco. Forte was bought because MAM thought the property portfolio attractively priced. It invested in Granada because it believed in Mr Robinson. Faced with a similar situation during the Granada bid for LWT two years ago, it sold.

If successful, Granada says it will rejuvenate Forte's roadside restaurants, push the mid-market Meridien hotel brand and rationalise budget inns under the Posthouse and Travelodge names. It also plans to sell Lillywhites, the remaining Alpha stake, the Welcome Break motorway service stations and its stake in the Savoy Group. Among possible buyers for the service stations is the drinks group Whitbread.

Profile, page 5

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Sales Assistant / Buyer

£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company offers a range of ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisors are r...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Manager

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Compliance Manager is require...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test