A ray of hope in GCap Media’s results was overshadowed on Friday by confirmation that Ralph Bernard, the industry giant who forged the company into the UK’s largest radio broadcaster, is to step down.
Mr Bernard, 54, made the decision on the 20th anniversary of his appointment as chief executive of GWR, the company he built up from the single entity of Wiltshire Radio into a broadcasting powerhouse, merging with Capital in 2005.
In a statement, the company said that Mr Bernard, appointed CBE in 2002 for his services to the industry, would leave the job when a successor is appointed.
Although GCap has at least one potential internal replacement, in the form of its London managing director Fru Hazlitt, it may prove hard to attract outsiders to what has been the most powerful job in commercial radio.
Apart from its flagship Capital, GCap stations include Classic FM, Choice FM and the One Network.
The whole market is in flux, with a raft of consolidation possibilities outstanding and the sale of Emap’s portfolio, including Kiss and Magic, attracting lively attention from private companies such as Global Radio.
One industry chief executive told the FT: “I doubt any serious external candidate for GCap would want even to go so far as putting their hat in the ring until they know what they will be facing by way of rivals and that won’t be until after Emap radio is sold off.”
A person with knowledge of the Emap sell-off told the FT this week that the process could last until March.
GCap’s first-half results showed like-for-like pre-tax profits, taking into account the sale of two of its Century stations in October 2006, of £5.6m compared with £5.8m.
But adjusted revenues were up 4.5 per cent and debts cut by more than half to £37.2m.
The company announced a deal to sell advertising airtime for GMG Radio, expected to add £1.4m profit a year.
In what will be his final statement as chief executive, Mr Bernard said that the outlook for radio advertising was stable, but the company admitted that revenues were down 1 per cent in October and advertising was currently flat.
GCap shares fell 13p or 8.3 per cent to 142p in early London trading, having earlier touched a 52-week low of 140p.
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