Sir Gerrard Jude “Gerry” Robinson, Irish-born British business executive and television presenter, is born in Dunfanaghy, County Donegal on October 23, 1948. He is the former non-executive Chairman of Allied Domecq and the ex-Chairman/chief executive of Granada.
The ninth of ten children born to Anthony and Elizabeth Robinson, Robinson moves with his family to England in his early teens. He briefly trains to become a Catholic priest at St. Mary’s Missionary College of the Holy Ghost Fathers at Castlehead, Grange-over-Sands, Lancashire. He begins a career in accounting in 1965 as a clerk with the Matchbox toy company. While with the firm, he progresses through various accounting roles to become Chief Management Accountant in 1974. During that time he also qualifies as an Associate Chartered Management Accountant.
In 1974, Robinson leaves Matchbox to work for Lex Vehicle Leasing as a management accountant. He rises through the company and is ultimately appointed finance director. In 1980, he joins the UK franchise of Coca-Cola, owned at the time by Grand Metropolitan. In 1983 he is appointed managing director of Grand Metropolitan’s international services division. In 1987 he leads the successful £163m management buyout of the loss-making contract services and catering division of Compass Group, known as Compass Caterers. He joins Granada as CEO in 1991 and ousts Granada’s chairman, David Plowright, in 1992, which leads John Cleese to call Robinson “an upstart caterer.”
Robinson steers the company through various mergers, and hostile takeovers including London Weekend Television (1993) and Forte Group (1996). In 1999 he is the subject of a biography, Lord of the Dance, written by business journalist William Kay, and published by Orion Business Books. In 2005 he makes an unsuccessful attempt to oust Doug Flynn as CEO of Rentokil Initial and install himself as Executive chairman for a 5% stake in the company, then valued at £56M.
Robinson’s first foray into broadcasting is a revival of the BBC‘s Troubleshooter series, originally fronted by Sir John Harvey-Jones in the early 1990s. Titled I’ll Show Them Who’s Boss and co-produced by the Open University, in 2004 he goes into struggling businesses to try to turn them round by advice and mentoring.
In January 2007 following a similar format, he presents a three-part series, Can Gerry Robinson Fix the NHS? as he attempts to reduce waiting lists at Rotherham General Hospital. He returns a year later for a sequel, Can Gerry Robinson Fix the NHS? One Year On. In December 2009, he presents a programme in a similar format entitled Can Gerry Robinson Fix Dementia Care Homes?.
In June 2009 Robinson presents a special edition of The Money Programme entitled Gerry Robinson’s Car Crash investigating the history and future of the British motor industry. He regularly appears on British TV as a celebrity businessman. In July 2009 he starts a TV series called Gerry’s Big Decision, in which he reviews struggling companies and decides whether it is worth investing his own money to save them. From January 14 through February 18, 2011 he presents BBC Two show Can’t Take It with You, which helps people to write their wills.
Robinson also serves as chairman of the Arts Council England for six years from 1998, in which capacity he is one of the many victims of a spoof by British comedian Ali G. He has divorced and remarried and has four children. He lives in Raphoe, County Donegal and has established a botanical garden with a narrow-gauge railway – the Difflin Lake Railway – which is open to the public. He was knighted in the 2004 New Year Honours list.