Want to save your business from Carey Street? The answer, it appears, is to send for a Robinson. Ask Lord Vestey. In 1991, when the Vestey meat empire was on its uppers, it sought out one Terry Robinson, a tough accountant schooled by Tiny Rowland at Lonhro. When he goes at the end of this year, this particular Robinson will have turned borrowings of £180 million into net assets of £100 million - earning himself a £10 million bonus in the process. His namesake, Gerry Robinson, has done similar wonders for the Bernstein family, founders and still significant shareholders in the Granada television business. When he arrived two years ago, Granada was struggling with a £634 million debt mountain. Within 18 months it was reporting profits up 28% and was sufficiently robust to make a £600 million bid for LWT.
It is not just the great and the good who have reason to feel grateful to the Robinsons. The employees of what was Central and Sheerwood, a run-down engineering and property group once owned by the late and unlamented Robert Maxwell, must be glad of the attentions of Geoffrey Robinson, the Labour MP and veteran industrialist. Robinson's specialist engineering group, TransTec (see Management Today, January 1993), took over Central, together with several other private Maxwell-owned engineering companies, shortly before his death - thereby saving the pensions, and jobs, of the workforces.