Pizza mogul named Channel 4 chairman

Luke Johnson, the millionaire financier, was yesterday surprisingly chosen to be the next chairman of Channel 4.

Mr Johnson, who brought Pizza Express to the stock market in the 1990s, was famously involved in a furious on-screen row when he appeared on BBC 2's Back to the Floor, 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 about £80m, Mr Johnson, 42, is the chairman of Signature Restaurants (formerly Belgo Group) which owns some of London's most glamorous eateries including The Ivy and Le Caprice, and the Strada, Belgo and Bierodrome chains.

He is 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."

The part-time appointment has been formally approved by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Tessa Jowell, and is for three years, with pay of £67,500 a year.

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