The Bluffer's Guide: Your essential companion to this week's big events
Sunday 26 May 1996
First-half figures are out on Wednesday.
A volatile tip-sheet business, called Fleet Street Letter, before Michael Green reversed into it in 1983 and renamed it Carlton. Then it was worth pounds 44m. Now it is worth pounds 2.7bn.
So what's Mr Green like?
A darling of the stock market or a ruthless 1990s-style businessman, depending on where you sit. Keen bridge player. One of the most powerful men in television. Otherwise, it's a bit hard to say as he generally keeps a low profile. But that doesn't stop the knives coming out.
There are plenty of disgruntled ex-employees, fired from acquisitions throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s. He also got up the nose of Standard Life, which opposed an executive share scheme that rewarded management handsomely, even when the shares were not performing particularly well.
On the other hand?
He has been hailed as one of the coming generation of business grandees, stepping into the shoes of the likes of Lords Hanson and Weinstock - or so a recent article in the Investors Chronicle intimated. He is also a dedicated supporter of the Conservatives. In 1993, he paid out pounds 15,000 to the folks at Smith Square. Cynics like to point out it was the same year he was awarded the lucrative London TV franchise.
He will mainly be remembered for making Carlton a dominant force in British broadcasting in the course of a few years. It owns the ITV weekday franchise for London - roundly abused by broadsheet critics for the poor quality of its offerings - and the Midlands franchise. It also owns video production and distribution businesses, as well as Quantel and Solid State Logic, which make equipment for the film and TV industry.
So what's happening?
The stock market is expecting pre-tax first-half profits of pounds 131m to pounds 141m. Given that the company only managed pounds 100m in the whole of 1992, the scale of the achievement is plain to see, except to Terry Smith.
Mr Smith achieved brief notoriety when he was sacked from the big Swiss broker, UBS, for daring to reveal the dirty tricks of company accounts in his book, Accounting for Growth. In a second, revised edition, due out in July, Carlton is one of his chief targets. Mr Smith says that Carlton's returns for investors are no more than pedestrian, once goodwill is written back into the accounts.
Next move for Carlton?
Ever since Carlton became a major player, its name has been linked to virtually every other remaining independent operator. Many predict a bid for HTV, the Welsh franchise. Others believe its ambitions are on an altogether grander scale. Its main rival, MAI, has teamed up with United Newspapers, publishers of the Express titles. There is every possibility Mr Green will attempt something similar. There could be news of these developments this week. Then again, given his bridge playing skills, maybe not.
Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes
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