GWR departure prompts takeover talk

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The Independent Online

GWR, the radio company that owns Classic FM, yesterday announced the surprise resignation of its chief executive, Patrick Taylor.

Analysts said Mr Taylor's departure, which leaves the company in the hands of its executive chairman, Ralph Bernard, signalled GWR's status as a takeover candidate rather than a consolidator of radio assets. The group, which has slimmed down over the past 18 months, selling overseas interests and non-core UK operations, said it "no longer needed six executive directors". Simon Ward, new media and digital director since 2000, would also step down, the company added.

GWR was recently forced to sell its stake in Vibe, a Bristol-based radio group, on competition grounds. Mr Taylor, 55, will collect a payoff of £587,000, equivalent to 16 months' salary, while Mr Ward would receive some "small compensatory" element for stepping down from the board, sources close to the company said.

Both men will leave the board after GWR's annual shareholder meeting on 31 July. Mr Taylor, who oversaw a programme to slash debts from £100m to £66m, will still work for GWR's digital radio division Livetime on a consultancy basis, the company said.

The day-to-day running of GWR would fall to Steve Orchardand Roger Lewis. GWR shares fell 6p to 210.5p.