'Upstart caterer' crowns his career by cooking up another takeover

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Granada's merger with Compass completes the circle in the colourful career of Gerry Robinson.

The 51-year old Irishman's relationship with the business dates back to 1984, when he was appointed managing director of what was then the contract catering division of Grand Metropolitan.

It was Compass that set the Irish entrepreneur on his way after he led a management buyout of the company in 1987 for £160m and floated it on the stock market a year later.

Compass was also the source of a quote that has stuck with Mr Robinson and entered business legend. When Mr Robinson sacked David Plowright as head of Granada TV, the incensed comedian John Cleese sent the businessman a fax urging him: "Why don't you f*** off, you upstart caterer."

After leaving Compass for Granada in 1991, Mr Robinson embarked on a string of deals while keeping touch with his former company. There was the £595m bid for LWT in 1994 and the £3.3bn hostile bid for Forte the following year. Famously, Mr Robinson launched the Forte bid when Sir Rocco Forte was enjoying a morning's grouse shooting.

The son of a carpenter from Donegal, Mr Robinson has been saying for some time that he wanted one last big deal before retiring on his 55th birthday in order to spend more time fishing in his native Ireland. A merger with Compass may not set the pulses racing, but for Mr Robinson it navigates a route back home.

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