Former pizza boss is Channel 4 chief

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The Independent Online

Luke Johnson, the millionaire financier and former pizza mogul, was chosen yesterday to be the next chairman of Channel 4.

Mr Johnson, who brought PizzaExpress to the stock market in the 1990s, was famously involved in an on-screen row when he appeared in the BBC's Back to the Floor show, which put bosses in the place of their staff.

Mr Johnson stormed off the show when he found life too hot in the kitchen of his Belgo Centraal restaurant in London. He tore off his microphone and told the film crew to "stick your programme" after the head chef criticised him.

Said to be worth around £80m, Mr Johnson, 42, is now the chairman of Signature Restaurants (formerly Belgo Group) which owns some of the most glamorous eateries in London including The Ivy and Le Caprice. It also owns the Strada, Belgo and Bierodrome chains.

He is also the son of writer and columnist Paul Johnson who once labelled Michael Grade, as Britain's "pornographer-in-chief" when he was chief executive of Channel 4.

The chairmanship of the state-owned Channel 4 traditionally goes to a business figure and Mr Johnson beat off competition from other highly-regarded candidates, including Stuart Rose, the retail entrepreneur who most recently ran Arcadia, and Hans Snook, the former head of Orange. Mr Johnson will replace Vanni Treves, the chairman of the troubled Equitable Life insurance group.

David Currie, the Chairman of Ofcom, the media regulator which is responsible for the appointment, said: "Luke combines an outstanding commercial and strategic track record with a passion for public service broadcasting and Channel 4. He has the ideal experience to guide the Channel 4 Board as it addresses the significant challenges ahead."

Oxford-educated Mr Johnson began his career with BMP Advertising Agency, then joining Kleinwort Benson as a media analyst. He made his name with PizzaExpress, which he and Hugh Osmond took over in 1993.

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