Grade rules out early leisure acquisitions
John Conlon to quit top post at First Leisure as the former head of Channel 4 prepares to take executive control
Thursday 30 January 1997
Mr Grade, who announced earlier this week that he would be leaving Channel 4, where he has been chief executive for nine years, said: "Anyone who expects radical change will be disappointed. This is about continuity, not change."
His comments came after he had been linked with reports that Rank planned to sell its film distribution subsidiary. Rank refused to comment on the speculation.
Mr Grade will overlap with Mr Conlan, who said yesterday he planned to improve his golf handicap after he left, probably at the end of 1997. Both insisted the handover was amicable and said Mr Grade's elevation from the non-executive position he had held since January 1995 was prompted by, not the cause of, Mr Conlan's decision to go.
The attempt to present the replacement of Mr Conlan by Mr Grade in those friendly terms was greeted with scepticism yesterday. Despite the united front the two presented, it has come as no surprise to observers that there was no room at the top for both men.
Mr Grade, whose uncle, the late Lord Delfont, bought First Leisure out of Trusthouse Forte in 1982, said the appointment of a chief executive was "an issue that may arise at some point". He refuted allegations that he was taking over the "family firm". Mr Conlan added: "If I were being winkled out, I would not be here today."
Mr Conlan is employed on a two-year contract and earned more than pounds 500,000 in 1995, the latest year for which salary information has been published.
Mr Grade denied that there would be any change of strategy at the company, which has been one of the leisure sector's most steady and, its critics claim, dullest businesses. It owns a collection of unrelated mass market leisure operations including bingo halls, marinas, nightclubs, and live music pubs.
Recent acquisitions have taken it into indoor skiing and it has been linked with several pub chains, although it has so far failed to acquire any. It has prided itself on its ability to continue increasing profits through the recession by organic growth rather than acquisition.
Mr Grade's move into mainstream business follows 23 years in broadcasting, most recently as chief executive of Channel 4, where he was instrumental in investing in a number of British films, including Four Weddings and a Funeral, Trainspotting and Secrets and Lies.
He said Mr Conlan had first approached him just before Christmas to say he wanted to move on. That, Mr Grade said, had started him worrying that he might start to get stale himself at Channel 4. His tenure there had been his longest ever appointment in a career that started with a stint as a sports writer for the Daily Mirror.
Mr Grade refused to be drawn on what he might earn. He said: "I have never taken a job for the money. But I am not so self-effacing that I'm prepared to do it for nothing." Mr Grade is understood to have been tempted back into business by the sort of stock options that would not be available to him at Channel 4.
Comment, page 19
- 1 Amy Winehouse statue unveiled in Camden
- 2 Lego breaks out of the toy box and heads for the gallery
- 3 George Galloway on Scottish independence: The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
- 4 Headaches, fry ups, and hair of the dog - why do we get hangovers, and is there such thing as a 'cure'?
- 5 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
George Galloway on Scottish independence: The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained in Los Angeles after being mistaken for a prostitute
Scottish independence: Nationalist leader Jim Sillars threatens pro-union companies with 'day of reckoning' after independence
Scottish independence: Yes campaign feels the heat as Alex Salmond's NHS claims come under furious attack
Scottish independence: Britain faces 'constitutional crisis' at next election
£23m Birmingham cycle scheme is attacked by Tory councillor for not catering to the elderly
iJobs Money & Business
£280 - £320 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...
£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...
£35000 - £38000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Training Coordinator / Pl...
Data Governance Manager (Solvency II) – Contract – Up to £450 daily rate, 6 month (may go Permanent)
£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently looking...