Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Man Who 'Saved' Rank Is Set to Quit; CITY BRIEFING

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Man Who 'Saved' Rank Is Set to Quit; CITY BRIEFING

Article excerpt

Byline: JIM ARMITAGE

RANK chief executive Mike Smith is leaving after seven years at the Hard Rock Cafe-to-Mecca bingo group.

He will be replaced by Ian Burke, 49-year-old chief executive of venture capital-owned fitness chain Holmes Place, who will be on a salary of about [pounds sterling]500,000. Smith disposed of a clutch of businesses, including Butlins and Pinewood Studios, at the once-diverse media and leisure conglomerate in a bid to focus on its core Grosvenor casinos business and Mecca bingo.

The process culminated in the sale, due to complete today, of its Deluxe film processing business for [pounds sterling]300 million. That deal, which took two years to pull off, left investors unimpressed by disappointing net proceeds and the resulting impact on the dividend.

But Rank said Smith's departure was unrelated to reaction to the Deluxe deal, and pointed out that he has to go by next January, when he reaches 60.

The West Ham fan, described as an East End boy made good, will leave at the March annual general meeting but will be paid his [pounds sterling]600,000 salary until December.

Analysts said that while Smith arguably saved Rank from collapse when he arrived in 1999, his impressive start seemed to fizzle out as he got bogged down in the Deluxe sale and the difficult task of improving operational performances.

One fund manager with a large Rank shareholding said that while Smith was generally well-regarded and liked, his biggest miss was failing to secure the takeover of bookmaker Coral four years ago. It is thought he narrowly lost out in the [pounds sterling]860 million bidding for the business, sold to Gala last October for [pounds sterling]2 billion.

"If he'd done that deal, he would have been a hero. As it is, I'm afraid it's a good thing that he's going," he said.

Rank launched a search for a successor last October, recently alighting on Burke, who has a decent reputation in the leisure industry. …

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