September 22, 2023

Media Decoder: Robin Roberts Plans February Return to ‘Good Morning America’

12:25 p.m. | Updated Robin Roberts, the “Good Morning America” host who signed off the show last August to receive treatment for a life-threatening bone marrow disorder, says she intends to return to work in February.

Her announcement, made in grand fashion on “G.M.A.” Monday morning, is the beginning of a gradual comeback by Ms. Roberts, the biggest star on the ABC morning show, who has been in isolation for months following a bone-marrow transplant.

“We’re talking about weeks, not months,” Ms. Roberts said of her return in a live interview from her New York apartment.

Her appearance was described by one ABC staff member as “astonishing” because it came just four and a half months after she was admitted to a New York hospital to treat M.D.S., short for myelodysplastic syndromes, a rare blood and bone marrow disorder. When Ms. Roberts revealed the diagnosis last year, executives at the network were careful not to predict how long she would be away. Some staff members said they assumed she’d be absent for six months to a year. But her body is responding well to the transplant from her older sister Sally-Ann, according to her doctors, one of whom appeared on “Good Morning America” on Monday.

Ms. Roberts began the “process of re-entry,” as she described it, by waking up at 4 a.m. for the live shot, roughly the same time she used to wake up for the show. She said she would continue the process next week by doing a “dry run”: coming into the studio and getting dressed for the show, but not actually co-hosting it.

“My doctors want me to see how many people I actually come into contact with,” she said. Her interactions with staff members and fans outside the show’s street-level studio in Times Square are a concern because she remains at risk of infection. But her eagerness to return was evident on Monday. “I can’t wait to get back,” she told her co-hosts.

Ms. Roberts’s illness was a shock for viewers of “Good Morning America” and for the show’s staff, many of whom have bonded with her over the decade she has been co-host. Fears about her prognosis came at an otherwise joyous time for the show: in April it beat NBC’s “Today” show in the ratings for the first time in 16 years.

“G.M.A.” is now solidly No. 1, though the race remains very close among the 25- to 54-year-old viewers that advertisers seek. Ms. Roberts’s return is surely to be heavily promoted by ABC, just as Monday’s announcement was teased on social networking Web sites for days in advance.

The announcement came on the same day that “Today” pulled out all the stops with coverage of the Golden Globe Awards, which NBC televised the night before. All four co-hosts of “Today” were live in California for a morning-after show. ABC denied that Ms. Roberts’ appearance was counterprogramming.

There was no precedent in morning television — a time of day that calls for consistency and intimacy — for a long medical leave of absence by an anchor. The producers of “G.M.A.” tried to lessen the possible impact by incorporating Ms. Roberts’s Facebook and Twitter messages into the show and by making sure that her co-hosts mentioned her every half-hour. They also booked a number of special guests, including Oprah Winfrey and Ann Romney, and had two other ABC anchors, Elizabeth Vargas and Amy Robach, take turns filling in. Ms. Roberts thanked the fill-ins during her live shot on Monday.

Ms. Roberts appeared to be in good spirits, though the effects of the illness were apparent: she was almost bald from the chemotherapy that preceded the transplant. Her face also looked thin, but better than it did last month, when she briefly left her apartment to attend the wedding of Sam Champion, the “Good Morning America” weatherman. She looked “a bit fragile” then, Mr. Champion said in between segments on Monday. “What is striking today is how healthy and vibrant she looks,” he said.

Ms. Roberts met with her doctors last Wednesday and received a thumbs-up to begin the re-entry process, according to staff members. She informed Tom Cibrowski, the senior executive producer of “G.M.A.,” of the good news by telephone the same day.

Mr. Cibrowski said Monday that ABC was being careful to follow the lead of Ms. Roberts and her doctors. “This is a part of her recovery,” he said, just as returning to work is a normal part of recovery for many patients. He said the show would include segments about other patients in similar situations in the weeks leading up to her first day hosting again.

“The greatest day in ‘G.M.A.’ history will be the day Robin returns to ‘G.M.A.,” Mr. Cibrowski said, repeating something he has said in interviews since her leave of absence began.

On television on Monday morning, Ms. Roberts did not give a specific date for her potential return. But she has told colleagues she has a date in mind: Feb. 26. That’s the date in 2012 when she co-hosted ABC’s coverage of the Academy Awards in Los Angeles and noticed that she felt exhausted. The feeling prompted her to visit her doctor, which in turn led to the M.D.S. diagnosis.

Article source:

U.S. Fast-Food Giant Yum Bids for Chinese Chain

HONG KONG — Yum Brands, the company behind KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, is planning to add another name to its list of restaurant chains: Little Sheep, which operates hundreds of colorful hot pot restaurants throughout China.

Based in Louisville, Ky., Yum has been betting on China’s giant population and rising affluence levels since 1987, when it first introduced the KFC brand in China. Last year alone, it opened more than 500 restaurants in mainland China and now generates more than one-third of its annual revenue in the country.

On Friday, Yum stepped up its expansion drive with a bid for Little Sheep, which is based in the Inner Mongolian city of Baotou and operates what is a well recognized brand within the highly fragmented Chinese restaurant market.

Yum, which already owns 27.2 percent of the Hong Kong-listed Little Sheep, offered to pay 6.50 Hong Kong dollars, or 84 U.S. cents, each for most of the shares it does not already own, with the aim of raising its stake to 93.2 percent. The offer, which had been signaled in late April, values the company at $682 million.

The founders of Little Sheep — Zhang Gang, who is also chairman of the company, and Chen Hongkai — would retain the remaining 6.8 percent.

“The restaurant industry in China is highly competitive, but we are optimistic about the outlook and the opportunities,” Sam Su, chairman and chief executive of Yum’s China division, said in a statement Friday announcing the planned transaction. “We are confident we can further strengthen Little Sheep’s brand, business model and market position in the industry.”

The transaction, which remains subject to regulatory approval, underlines the eagerness of many Western retailers and consumer goods companies to expand into China.

Disposable incomes have risen rapidly in China and in many other developing Asian nations over the past two decades, prompting an influx of companies wishing to sell products as diverse as luxury handbags and cars, chicken drumsticks and laundry detergent.

Yum was a relatively early entrant to the Chinese market, and KFC has become one of the most dominant and visible fast-food chains in China — more so than rivals like McDonald’s.

There are now more than 3,200 KFC outlets in more than 700 mainland Chinese cities, according to Yum. The Pizza Hut brand, which was introduced in China in 1990, now counts 520 restaurants and 120 home delivery outlets across this market of 1.3 billion people.

Yum also pledged to help Little Sheep, which listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange in 2008, to introduce the hot pot concept — customers dip vegetables or meat into boiling broth at their tables — and the Little Sheep brand “to a wider global audience.”

“I believe that the strong capability and expertise Yum possesses in managing world-class brands and growing restaurant networks will significantly further Little Sheep’s development in China and overseas,” Mr. Zhang of Little Sheep said in the statement Friday, “and should leave us well positioned to develop into an internationally recognized restaurant chain.”

Article source: