Grade made move for fear of `going stale'

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The Independent Online
Michael Grade is to spearhead the firm founded by his uncle Lord Delfont because he is "afraid of going stale" after almost a decade as head of Channel 4.

The flamboyant, cigar-chomping impresario - who prides himself on being a free spirit and certainly has a low boredom threshold - is hoping to gain a new lease of life as executive chairman of First Leisure Corporation, which owns the Blackpool Tower as well as bingo halls, bowling alleys and discos.

Mr Grade, who takes up his new post on 31 July, was already non-executive chairman of First Leisure, a relatively low-profile company which was was acquired by his now deceased uncle in 1982 for pounds 43.5m and is now worth pounds 558m.

Despite this family connection, he denied that nepotism had played a part in his appointment. "This is not a family firm," he said. "It is owned by a wide range of very important shareholders. The connection is that it was founded by my uncle and I hope he would have approved of today's announcement."

He also denied that he had taken the job for purely financial reasons. "I have never taken a job for the money, that's not to say that I am prepared to work for nothing," he said.

"In 1983 I came straight from a job in Hollywood at pounds 500,000 a year to work for the BBC for pounds 38,000 a year. That will show I may need to be certified."

Explaining his decision to leave Channel 4 less than halfway through a five-year contract, he said: "The Channel 4 job has been the longest I have ever been involved in. I have been in broadcasting since 1973 and the great fear at the back of my mind was that I would get stale. Channel 4 is at the forefront of broadcasting. Jeremy Isaacs [the previous Channel 4 chief executive] only did the job for five years. I have done it for nine.

"There was also the exciting thought of getting home in the evening and not having to watch TV."

Asked what he will bring to his new post, Mr Grade replied with characteristic self-assurance: "I have proved my skills in whatever I have been involved with. I am very good at managing and getting the most out of people."