People & Business: Galaxy lands a superstar, along with Billy Bunter

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The Independent Online
Robert Stigwood, the impresario best known for his productions of Jesus Christ Superstar, Grease and Evita, has been brought in by his friend, Christopher Moran, as non-executive chairman of Galaxy Media Corporation, the quoted TV programme maker and entertainment business which grew out of the old CSC investment trust. Its star programmes include Funky Bunker and Bonkers, for ITV, a pop video for Manchester United, and it recently bought the rights to Billy Bunter and Greyfriars School.

Mr Stigwood's acceptance is something of a coup as he has no other current directorships. But for five years in the Seventies he ran the Robert Stigwood Organisation, a listed company which he eventually sold to PolyGram in 1979.

Mr Moran, who is the largest shareholder in Galaxy with 29 per cent of the company, has been appointed non-executive deputy chairman. Another big shareholder is Mike Mansfield, former host of the pop programme Supersonic and the chief executive is John Webber, a former vice-chairman of Mark McCormack's International Management Group. He is building up the sporting events and agency side of the business.

Mr Stigwood has an option over 350,000 ordinary shares exercisable within the next six months at 100p a share. He is in the money immediately as the shares rose 10p to 170p yesterday, valuing the company which lost pounds 474,000 in the 18 months to last June and has yet to pay a dividend in its current incarnation, at around pounds 6m.

Some nasty growls are reverberating round the world of personal finance this week after Richard Branson's Virgin Direct group offered to pay all exit penalties charged by competing PEP managers on behalf of investors who switch their PEPs to Virgin before 18 July.

To underline the fact that relatively few investors know they can switch their PEPs without affecting their annual investment limits, Virgin has named 24 "PEP superdogs", funds which have consistently failed to match the market sector in which they invest in three consecutive three-year periods.

The list includes two funds from Fidelity, the managers which rose to Virgin's challenge on management charges a couple of years ago. Then Virgin sent Freya Soanes, its favourite "trolley dolly", to infiltrate a briefing and make a pleasing visual point. Virgin had thought of dressing up a miserable pooch with a ball and chain labelled exit charges, but thought better of it, marketing director Tony Wood said yesterday.

But Fidelity's Paul Kafka thinks Virgin's latest effort sad and desperate. The two Fidelity funds named have bounced back into the top quartile in the past two years and they levy no exit charges, while Virgin's has been losing hands down in the war to attract windfall investments. "You can't hold your actual windfalls for more than a year with Virgin and their tracker fund linked to the All Share index has underperformed Fidelity's which tracks the Footsie," he snarled.

I hear that executives at Emap negotiating the sale of 14 business titles are encountering problems trying to dispose of a "people business". Employees at the publications up for sale - which include Media Week and Press Gazette - were called to a "morale boosting" meeting this week.

Tony Harris, managing director of Emap Media, addressed the assembled hacks who were, say insiders, in "combative" mood. Some pertinent questions from Mr Harris' hard-working staff alerted him to the fact that he was not the only one looking for an escape from the magazines. The answer to his dilemma proved simple: "loyalty bonuses" for all those who agreed to stay with the magazines - for better or for worse - under new ownership. Funny he hadn't tried this particular make of handcuff before.

Colly Myers has been confirmed as group managing director of Psion, the personal organiser maker, following the decision to split the roles of chairman and chief executive as a result of the illness of David Potter. Mr Potter remains executive chairman and I am glad to hear he is in good heart and voice again.

Mr Myers is one of the three employees who sat round a restaurant table in 1984 eating coffee and sandwiches and scribbling ideas on the napkins. The need to find something cheaper and more convenient to store information led directly to the invention of the Psion Organiser, according to company folklore.

Mr Myers is 42 and a South African and is unhappy to find his new responsibilities mean he will miss the Lord's Test match between England and Australia this month.