Business Irish

Monday 19 March 2018

Gerry Robinson


THE "upstart caterer" who grabbed a hotel empire from the Fortes and turned Granada around has started a new fund to back cash-strapped companies.

From Co Donegal, Sir Gerry Robinson moved to Britain with his family aged just eight. He trained for the priesthood but chose Mammon over God, becoming an accountant instead. Starting as a clerk at Matchbox Toys, he worked his way into senior finance roles.

By 1980 he was MD of Coca Cola UK's services division. Seven years later he led a €200m buyout of that business. Renaming it Compass, he made it profitable in two years and floated it.

When he took on TV giant Granada in 1991 and ousted its chairman, Monty Python comedian John Cleese scathingly dubbed him "an upstart caterer".

The upstart revived Granada's fortunes in just a year and led a hostile takeover of LWT. Then came the bitter battle with Rocco Forte for his family hotel group, including Rocco's beloved Shelbourne Hotel. Robinson's lucky streak ran out when a 2005 raid on €70m valued Rentokil didn't come off.

He has fronted several corporate 'fix it' TV shows in recent years, including Can Gerry Robinson Fix the NHS? on BBC and Gerry's Big Decision on Channel 4.

He has been chairman of BSkyB and Allied Domecq and was knighted in 2003 for services to the arts. He's an investor in and chairs Moto Hospitality, a big Macquarie-backed British service station chain.

Last year he co-founded Ancala Partners, a fund manager investing in infrastructure businesses that need refinancing, aiming to build a fund of €500m. He's not actively looking at anything Irish.

He lives in London but spends much of his time in his lovingly restored Georgian pile near Raphoe in Donegal.

Painting oil landscapes is a favourite hobby.

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