Hazlitt set to replace Bernard at GCap

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Fru Hazlitt, the London managing director of GCap, is being tipped as the likely candidate to replace the company's long-serving chief executive Ralph Bernard, who is stepping down.

GCap said it will be looking internally and externally for a successor, but analysts believe Ms Hazlitt, the former chief executive of Virgin Radio who joined GCap this year, would not have moved without the promise of fairly swift promotion.

Other internal candidates at GCap, the owner of Classic FM and Capital Radio, include the operations director Steve Orchard and finance director Wendy Pallot, while the former Chrysalis Radio chief executive Phil Riley and Emap Radio's group managing director Dee Ford are among the external possibilities.

Mr Bernard, 54, who will remain at the company in the role of chairman of Classic FM, was tightlipped on the successor yesterday but said he would stay on to ensure a stable transition. The biggest challenge facing the new chief executive will be "how to handle the question of digital radio", Mr Bernard said. "There is still no sign from the Government that it is prepared to switch off the analogue signal early," he said. "That is going to be one of the key measures of uptake." Mr Bernard has been pushing for a definite date for switch-off, possibly for as early as 2015.

Mr Bernard, who began his career as a documentary journalist at a radio station in Sheffield, said the highlight of his tenure running GWR, which merged with Capital Radio to form GCap in 2005, had been the creation of Classic FM, "the most successful commercial radio station".

Yesterday, the UK's largest commercial radio broadcaster reported a fall in pre-tax profits for the six months to the end of September from £5.8m to £5.6m, while revenues fell to £100m from £102.2m. The group revealed that group and radio advertising revenues would both rise 4 per cent in November, following a 1 per cent fall in group turnover in October with radio revenues flat.