British radio boss tunes into new role

Capital Radio and Classic FM parent group GCap Media today confirmed it had hired former Virgin Radio head Fru Hazlitt as it struggles to turn its fortunes around.

Capital Radio and Classic FM parent group Gcap Media today confirmed it had hired former Virgin Radio head Fru Hazlitt as it struggles to turn its fortunes around.

Ms Hazlitt will take on the newly created role of managing director of Gcap London, in charge of Capital Radio and Choice FM, and look after Gcap Media’s national commercial and online operations.

The news comes amid mounting speculation she was in talks with Gcap following her surprise departure from Virgin Radio.

Her appointment is the latest in a series of attempts by the group to resolve its financial difficulties.

In January last year it relaunched Capital to attract the key 15-to-44-year-old listener range.

Gcap chief executive Ralph Bernard also cut the length of its commercial breaks, pledging not to run two commercial adverts in a row to prevent listeners from tuning out.

The market reacted well to Ms Hazlitt’s appointment, with shares up more than 1% to 211.8p.

She has been credited with reviving Virgin Radio’s performance during her time at SMG, and it is now hoped that she can do the same at Gcap, which posted plummeting profits in November last year.

The commercial radio company said half year pre-tax profits to September 30 had fallen 32% to £8.4m (€12.8m), while group revenues in October and November had also slipped 13%.

Keith Bowman, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said Gcap needed a lift: “Gcap is in need of a fresh face to help turn the group around and give some momentum and new ideas.”

A tough radio advertising market has added to the group’s financial troubles.

Charles Stanley Securities analyst Paul Bates said Gcap had been suffering more than its rivals, but its performance was now at least in line with the rest of the market.

He said if Ms Hazlitt could fix Gcap London, the group would be put firmly on an upward track.

Ms Hazlitt was chief executive of Virgin Radio since April 2005, before which she acted as managing director of Yahoo! UK & Ireland for two years after being promoted from European sales director.

She also previously worked at Capital Radio, as sales director in the mid to late 1990s.

Her departure from Virgin was unexpected, but reports suggest she made the decision ahead of a possible merger between parent firm Scottish Media Group and Ulster Television.

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