Robinson to succeed Bernstein at Granada

MATHEW HORSMAN

Granada executives Gerry Robinson and Charles Allen, close colleagues for 12 years, are to occupy the top two slots at the leisure and media company starting next March, it was announced yesterday.

Mr Robinson, now group chief executive, will rise to the chairmanship, replacing 36-year Granada veteran Alex Bernstein. Mr Bernstein leaves next March after reaching Granada's retirement age of 60.

Mr Allen, chief executive of Granada Television and chairman of the leisure division, will become group chief executive. In addition to his current responsibilities, he will run Granada's rentals and computer operations. To reflect Mr Allen's future responsibilities, he is to be made chief operating officer effective immediately, the company said.

Analysts and competitors praised Mr Robinson yesterday, saying he made a "natural" choice as chairman. "He is an outstanding manager, and a very intelligent operator," said one senior television executive.

Mr Robinson has worked with Mr Allen since their days together at Compass Group, the world's largest catering company.

Together they masterminded Granada's successful bid for LWT, and helped develop one of four pending bids for Channel 5, the new terrestrial service, in league with Rupert Murdoch's 40 per cent-owned BSkyB. Mr Robinson is also chairman of BSkyB, in which Granada holds a 11 per cent stake.

Mr Allen has been a hands-on manager of the leisure and TV operations, but has been building his own management team in recent years. "I have put in place good chief executives in all the areas of the group," Mr Allen said last night. "I will be able to keep a close handle on the operations but I have very capable people in place."

Both Mr Robinson and Mr Allen stressed that the future direction of Granada was unlikely to change. Mr Allen saidhe expected further investment in programming rights and in broadcast outlets in the UK and internationally. Granada, which holds the ITV licences for the North and London Weekend, has to date made few moves outside the domestic market.

Mr Allen hinted that the company was unlikely to reduce its stake in BSkyB, as was rumoured in the market yesterday. BSkyB shares have risen through the 400p mark for the first time, fuelling speculation that Granada and even Mr Murdoch might be prepared to take some profits.

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