The executive with a talent for raising the most laughs

It is not hard to see why the BBC was so keen to hire Geoffrey Perkins - virtually nobody else in television or radio can match his comedy pedigree and talent for making hit shows.

Mr Perkins, who helped to found Hat Trick Productions, has been associated with some of the most popular shows of the past decade, including Drop the Dead Donkey, KYTV, Spitting Image, Saturday (and Friday)Night Live, the Harry Enfield programmes, Clive Anderson Talks Back, Whose Line Is It Anyway? and The Man from Auntie. He also produced The Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy for radio.

With Jimmy Mulville, Mary Bell and Denise O'Donoghue, he helped found Hat Trick, which became Britain's most successful comedy programme maker. Last year, the company's four directors shared more than pounds 700,000 in salaries.

Part of the company's recent financial success was derived from Have I Got News For You, for which it charges the BBC pounds 1.2m a series. Company documents indicate that for those who work and appear on the show it is a rich seam. For the video of the show, host Angus Deayton was to be paid pounds 16,400 and panel members Ian Hislop and Paul Merton pounds 11,000 each. Mr Deayton has a clothing allowance of pounds 4,250 with an extra pounds 550 for the Christmas show.

The BBC inquiry is focusing on the claims made by Hat Trick for a whole range of production costs. It does not relate to payments made to the show's stars, and there is no suggestion that they knew anything about the items at the centre of the inquiry.

Mr Perkins said that he did not know "the detailed ins and outs" of the case but said that he understood the sums involved to be tiny. He felt sure that Hat Trick would emerge unblemished.

Mr Perkins and the BBC stressed that the inquiry has not affected him. Mr Perkins has no dealings with anything concerning Hat Trick. He claimed that his position as head of comedy had, if anything, counted against the company. "I do not have a conflict of interest," he said, "because nothing from Hat Trick that is put up to the BBC ever comes through me."

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