The Big Hire: Simon Antrobus, BBC Children in Need

The incoming chief executive has been described as a "smart cookie" and someone whose adeptness at handling ministers will stand him in good stead at the children's charity

Simon Antrobus
Simon Antrobus

In November, Simon Antrobus will become chief executive of BBC Children in Need, a significant role given that the charitable funder awards about £55m a year to good causes. When he was appointed in August, Antrobus described the charity's annual television appeal as "a 'must-do' moment in the country's calendar" and said he was looking forward to ensuring that the charity made the "maximum impact possible on the lives of disadvantaged children and young people across the UK".

Antrobus is a seasoned charity chief, having led the drug and alcohol charity Addaction since 2009 and held the same role at the youth charity Clubs for Young People, which is now called Ambition, for five years before that. He has worked for more than 20 years in the charity and public sectors.

During Antrobus's time at Addaction, its income has grown significantly, despite the difficult financial climate that has prevailed. Its accounts show it had an income of almost £45m in 2011, and almost £65m in 2015. Much of the increase can be attributed to the merger with fellow addiction charity KCA in 2015, as well as the 11 new contracts Addaction won that year.

Antrobus was not available for interview, but Sir Stephen Bubb, former chief executive of the charity leaders body Acevo, says he will be "a safe pair of hands". Antrobus chaired Acevo's Public Health Commission between 2010 and 2011; Bubb says that his first impression of the man was of someone who was likeable but also professional.

Bubb says Antrobus understands the importance of professionalism in service delivery and, as a leader, will focus on running "a good, strong, professional organisation".

Bubb says Antrobus will be guided by his own experience in service delivery. "He's a smart cookie, he's someone who builds partnerships and he's very politically astute, so he can work across different strands of opinion and he's got a very strong understanding of the way the sector works," says Bubb.

"That's what you want at such an important grant-maker - getting the balance right between the large international charities and the smaller ones, as well as between different sectors, because Children in Need has a wide range of recipients."

Bubb says Antrobus has another quality that should stand him in good stead: "In the past he's needed to get on with government ministers, and I know they've always had a high regard for him. He's able to work very well with big egos, so I think he will handle celebrities superbly."

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