UK: Succession - Who will inherit the mantle when the last of Britain's grey-headed gang are all gone? (4 of 7)

UK: Succession - Who will inherit the mantle when the last of Britain's grey-headed gang are all gone? (4 of 7) - The sons also rise at the Maxwell publishing house.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

The sons also rise at the Maxwell publishing house.

Robert Maxwell is taking no chances with the succession. Three of his seven children work in his publishing empire. Kevin and Ian Maxwell are joint managing directors of Maxwell Communication Corporation, but Kevin seems to be in pole position to follow his father.

Ian Maxwell fell out of favour, so one version runs, when he was late picking up his father from Heathrow. Though he was subsequently reinstated, the incident allowed Kevin to overtake him in the pecking order.

Apocryphal or not, the story conforms to City opinion that Kevin is certainly brighter and works a great deal harder than his elder brother. He is also every bit as tough as his father, showing little compunction about cutting jobs and closing magazines. In the long term he will probably assume the role of chief executive, leaving Maxwell senior as non-executive chairman. But it is difficult to see Bob Maxwell, addicted to a life of relentless deal making and loving the limelight, taking to this role very easily.

His latest deal, the long-planned flotation of the Mirror group of newspapers in the early spring or summer, should value the business at some £600 million. This will add to Maxwell's vast fortune, already some £1 billion today. Though Maxwell is bringing his sons - and daughter Ghislaine - into the business, he has often said publicly that they will not inherit and will have to stand on their own. Only time will tell.

Tesco invests in new stock.

A chance meeting at an Eastbourne hotel 32 years ago ultimately saved the fortunes of the Tesco grocery chain. Sir Jack "Slasher" Cohen was enjoying his annual holiday when he first met the young Ian MacLaurin on a cricket tour and invited him to work for the supermarket chain. It was the offer of a company car which won over Tesco's first graduate trainee.

Though his public school credentials were the antithesis of Cohen's East End background, MacLaurin reached the top, becoming chairman in 1985. The turnaround in Tesco's fortunes was largely his doing. He cheerfully admits that in the late 1970s Tesco was "dead", written off by the stock market, with derisory margins of 1.9%. He changed the "pile 'em high, sell 'em cheap" philosophy to a brand identity relying on consistent quality, backed by a £1 billion a year investment programme.

From Forte's milk bar to hard Rocco cafe.

At the age of 45, Rocco Forte has a hard act to follow, even though for over 30 years he has been groomed to inherit the mantle from his 82-year-old father, Lord Forte. In his summer holidays as a 13-year-old schoolboy, Rocco worked as a waiter, cleaner and general dogsbody in the family hotel chain. Once, when he broke a tray of dishes, his father deducted the cost from his wages. He polished off his preparations with a degree from Oxford and training as an accountant.

Rocco's subsequent career was equally conventional: internal consultant to THF at the age of 25, personnel director at 29 and deputy chief executive at 33. Thus far Rocco has displayed little of the flamboyant business dealings that so endeared his father to the City. Since his promotion to the chief executive's post in 1983, Rocco has turned in consistently solid, if not startling, results, with profits increasingly at a compound rate of 29% during his tenure. Nonetheless, Trusthouse Forte stock remains equally undervalued because of his unfashionable emphasis on organic growth.

Rocco's major move was to conclude a peace deal with The Savoy Hotel. For years Lord Forte has besieged the Savoy managers in his bid to take over the prestige hotel. Rocco led the assault for the latter half of the 1980s before peace was declared in 1989. It was the bane of Lord Forte's life that Rocco remained an eligible bachelor for so long. But in 1986, at the age of 41, he finally settled down and married, much to his father's relief. The dynasty now seems assured. But it will be a tough battle to steer THF through the effects of the current recession.

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