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 Autistic teenager beaten up by bullies makes them watch 20-minute video about autism
- 3 World learns of app that shows you who unfriended you on Facebook, app promptly crashes
- 4 Chris Moyles reportedly set to make radio comeback with new breakfast show on XFM
- 5 The Greece debt crisis explained in less than 100 words
Florida man sentenced to two-and-a-half years for having sex on the beach in front of a child
Autistic teenager beaten up by bullies makes them watch 20-minute video about autism
Tube strike July 2015: Is it still on? Everything you need to know about the industrial action
Eiji Tsuburaya: Godzilla co-creator honoured in today's interactive Google Doodle
Florida teacher sentenced to 22 years in prison for sexually abusing three pupils
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Osborne to cap family benefits at £23,000 – announced ahead of his post-election Budget
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
Sickness and disability benefits could be reduced by £30 a week as part of £12bn welfare cuts
iJobs Money & Business
£40000 - £95000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
competitive: SThree: Are you passionate about sales?Do you have a keen interes...
£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company offers a range of ...