Was it really 10 years since the great man outmanoeuvred Sir Rocco Forte to
win control of the Savoy hotel group, with all its dynastic baggage?
What a mismatched battle it was. We all remember the story about how Rocco
was shooting in Yorkshire when Granada launched its bid for Forte. It later
transpired that he had been stitched up – Granada timed its move for maximum
embarrassment – but business is a dirty game.
Rocco tried to regain the PR advantage with a few carefully placed newspaper
shots of him running (for sport, as opposed to ‘for his life’) along the
Victoria Embankment. But he was never able to shake off the image of the toff
who took his eye off the ball.
I’ve met Sir Gerry twice over the years and have been won over by his Irish
charm. Yet I’ve also found him a little frightening. The warm smile and easy
manner didn’t quite square with the ferocity of the tactics employed. The real
Robinson was hiding somewhere behind that jovial mask.
After passing the Granada baton to his sidekick, Charles Allen, Sir Gerry
opted for the ‘sensitive tycoon’ look, painting landscapes at his pile in
Donegal. He emulated Sir John Harvey-Jones, famous wearer of kipper ties, by
starring in a didactic TV series, I’ll Show Them Who’s Boss.
We may never know what possessed Sir Gerry to turn his guns on Rentokil, a
company that has brought nothing but trouble over the years. He did not come out
of it well. There is lot to be said for getting out while you’re ahead – and
Jon Ashworth is a freelance journalist and writer
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