Once famous for its ability to entertain us in its films, cinemas and, of
course, bingo halls, Rank Group’s financial story will keep us on the edge of
our seats with the announcement of its annual results tomorrow.
It will be the first set of final results for FD Peter Gill since he took the
job last July, but he may be wondering if he’ll oversee many more.
Rumours have been circulating that several private equity groups want to buy
the group and break it up. This makes sense, as there are parts of the business
that are attractive propositions for potential buyers. The Hard Rock Cafés chain
and Mecca bingo halls are ripe for purchase, with the Blue Square online betting
company and Grosvenor casinos not far behind.
Gill is no stranger to uncertainty, and has certainly seen a few changes in
fortunes since he joined Rank last year. It is said that he was originally lined
up for the FD’s job at Rank’s Deluxe film company, but quickly plumped for the
group role when it became available. Perhaps he anticipated future developments,
because Rank announced plans to sell off Deluxe later that year.
Gill came from a fairly big job with the IT services company Xansa and before
that was with Pearson’s Penguin Group. So he might not like the turn of events
and seek pastures new, or he might warm to the prospect of working for private
equity owners on the best way forward.
A quick exit to provide advice to new owners would see him meet stiff
competition. Outgoing CEO Mike Smith is free to perform exactly that role, given
that his contract does not prevent it. That leaves Gill with the probable avenue
of looking elsewhere to keep his career momentum going.
Leaving a FTSE250 role would put Gill in a good position if a FTSE100 job
came up. Rank is a prominent company but, because Gill has only been there a
short time, potential employers may prefer him to have more experience at
FTSE250 level first. Whatever the outcome in the next few months, Gill is
certain to be at the centre of the shake-up.
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