Radio success gives new Heart to Chrysalis boss

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The Independent Online
A Boardroom mutiny at the loss-making music and media group Chrysalis has backfired, strengthening the position of executive chairman Chris Wright rather than the high-profile rebels who stormed out of the company three weeks ago.

Instead of bringing shareholder pressure to bear on Mr Wright, the revolt has been followed by a rise in the shares from 502.5p to 517.5p, as investors gained their first glimpse of how Chrysalis's new London radio station, Heart 106.2, is doing.

The market was expected to react with dismay when Viscount Chandos of Aldershot, the banker, and film producer Sir David Puttnam, famous for Chariots of Fire, The Killing Fields and Midnight Express, resigned complaining of Mr Wright's allegedly autocratic rule.

The dissidents also criticised the delay in appointing a managing director, a post finally filled by Philip McDanell last week.

Mr Wright's other interests - including Queen's Park Rangers FC and Wasps rugby club - made it impossible for him to devote enough attention to Chrysalis, they argued.

Viscount Chandos said this weekend he hoped Mr McDanell's appointment would address his criticisms. The move by Mr Wright does not, however, seem to have been spurred by shareholders, who were impressed by his latest venture into broadcasting.

The last time Chrysalis came under scrutiny, with a pounds 2.9m interim loss in May, Heart was barely six months old, too young to be evaluated properly .

Now in just a year it has captured 3 per cent of the London market, compared to Capital Radio's 20 per cent after two decades. Classic FM, broadcasting for four years, has only a 3.2 per cent share of its, admittedly larger, potential market.

Both Heart and Capital are aiming at 25-to-44 year olds, whose high incomes draw advertisers strongly.

Heart 106.2's success is patterned on that of sister station Heart FM, in the West Midlands, which in turn mirrors the most popular American formula: "Adult Contemporary" playing pop hits of the '70s, '80s and '90s from acts such as Elton John, Cher and Wet Wet Wet. It has less chat than Capital and does not pay for big-name DJs. Chrysalis's third station, Galaxy, serves Bristol and Cardiff.

Chrysalis's main cash generators are still TV production and music recording and publishing.